French teachers strike ‘chaotic’ COVID policy Coronavirus pandemic news

The WHO said 15 million people tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the most reported cases so far in a seven-day period.

Global COVID-19 cases hit a record high last week, with 15 million people testing positive for the coronavirus in the seven days ended Jan. 9, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday the figure was a 55% increase from the previous seven days, adding that the “huge spike” was driven by the Omicron variant.

While the highly contagious strain causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, Tedros said Omicron is still a “dangerous virus,” especially for those who have not been vaccinated.

The WHO chief’s comments came as Dutch foreign minister Vopk Hoekstra announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 and teachers in France went on strike over the government’s “chaotic” virus strategy for schools.

Here are the latest updates:

Australian Open audience capped at 50%

The Australian Open will be capped at 50 per cent spectators as Melbourne’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations continue to rise, authorities said.

Victorian Tourism Minister Jaala Pulford said in a statement that masks will also be mandatory at the opening ceremony of the annual Grand Slam tournament, which begins on Monday.

She added that viewers will be asked to maintain social distancing indoors.

French teachers strike ‘chaotic’ COVID tactics

French teachers are set to resign over what they say is the government’s failure to adopt coherent policies for schools to manage the COVID-19 pandemic or properly protect students and staff from infection.

“Fatigue and anger across the education community have reached unprecedented levels,” the 11 unions said in a joint statement.

“In this chaotic situation, the responsibility of the minister and the government is complete, given the changing foundations, the unworkable agreement and the lack of the proper tools to keep (schools) functioning properly.”

The strike comes as teachers, parents and school administrators struggle to keep up with new testing rules, which were announced before the end of the Christmas break but changed twice after criticism.

The union said they expected many schools to close on Thursday and a large number of teachers – including about 75% of primary teachers – to take part in a one-day strike.

Dutch foreign minister contracts COVID-19

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be quarantined at home for the next few days.

He announced the news on Twitter.

Hoekstra, who was only sworn in on Monday, met EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell and Belgian foreign minister Sophie Wilmes in Brussels on Tuesday.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I am Zaheena Rasheed from Male, Maldives.

Read all progress since January 12 here.