Austria ski slopes hit, Dutch schools open

·3-min read

Dutch schools are set to reopen while authorities in Pakistan record a surge in coronavirus cases and an outbreak was reported among ski instructors in an Austrian province.

The Netherlands, under a strict COVID-19 lockdown for the past two weeks, will reopen primary and secondary schools on January 10 despite coronavirus infections remaining high, the government announced on Monday.

The government stressed that hospital admissions were down considerably since the country went into a lockdown in December, which included schools closing a week earlier than planned for winter holidays.

"This is good news for students and it's important for their development and their mental well-being that they can go to school," Education Minister Arie Slob said at a press conference.

Vocational schools and universities will not reopen but instead have online classes until at least January 17.

"Unfortunately, despite our strict measures we are seeing a rise in infections and that means we are concerned about what will happen in the weeks ahead," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said.

On December 19 the Netherlands closed all but essential shops as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places.

A ban remains in place on gatherings outside of more than two people.

The measures will be reassessed on January 14.

Pakistan reported more than 700 COVID-19 cases in a single day on Monday - its highest tally in two months - as authorities warned of a fifth wave of infections and made preparations to try to contain the Omicron variant.

At least 708 cases in the past 24 hours pushed the positivity ratio to 1.55 per cent, the highest since October 24, according to data from the National Command Operation Centre.

"There is clear evidence now of a beginning of another COVID wave which has been expected for the last few weeks," Asad Umar, the minister in charge of supervising anti-COVID-19 operations, wrote on Twitter.

Genome sequencing had detected a growing number of cases of the Omicron variant, particularly in the largest city of Karachi, he said.

About 70 million people in Pakistan, or 32 per cent of the population, have had two vaccine doses.

The government authorised booster doses for citizens over the age of 30 from Monday.

Children over the age of 12 are being offered vaccinations at their schools.

"So far Pakistan has recorded 372 cases of the Omicron variant", Dr Faisal Sultan, a special assistant to the prime minister on health issues, told Reuters.

Most of those cases have been recorded in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, he said.

The provincial government of Sindh, of which Karachi is capital, is working on a strategy to contain the variant, which has included a partial lockdown of a Karachi neighbourhood last week after about a dozen Omicron cases were detected in a family.

Meanwhile, there has been another cluster of coronavirus infections among a group of ski instructors in Austria's Tyrol region.

In the village of St Anton am Arlberg, 17 ski instructors at a ski school had tested positive and were subsequently isolated, the state of Tyrol confirmed on Monday.

Previously, ski instructors in the small town of Kirchberg in the same province had already been found to be infected.

The number of infected increased to 25 in this case, according to a local media report.

The ski instructors had lived in shared accommodation.

In the province of Tyrol, the seven-day incidence rate of new infections was recently about 430 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is above the Austria-wide average of about 250.

with reporting from DPA

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