Algeria shuts schools as Covid-19 infection rates surge

Entry requirements tightened at airports as country battles delta and omicron variants

The CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine at the Saidal factory in Constantine, Algeria. Less than a quarter of the country's population has had one vaccine dose. AP

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Algeria has ordered all elementary and high schools to close for 10 days as Covid-19 infection rates surge in the North African country.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune cancelled classes starting Thursday after an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers, members of the Covid-19 scientific committee and the country’s security officials.

Entry requirements were also tightened at airports.

A statement from the president said university staff and health authorities should decide whether to continue in-person classes.

Algeria is battling infections from both the delta variant infections and the fast-spreading omicron variant. On Wednesday, health officials reported a daily record of 1,359 omicron cases and 12 deaths.

Mr Tebboune urged officials to set a “robust testing structure” in public heath facilities and private laboratories.

In December, Algeria started requiring a vaccine passport to enter many public venues, seeking to boost the country’s low inoculation rate and overcome hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused. Less than a quarter of Algeria’s population has been vaccinated.

The pass is also required for anyone entering or leaving Algeria, as well as for entering sports facilities, cinemas, theatres, museums, town halls and other sites such as hammams.

Real death rate could be higher

Official figures show Algeria has seen 6,433 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began, but members of the government’s scientific committee admit the real figure is much higher, AP reported.

Some Algerians keep their infections secret, worried they will be blamed for getting the virus, which then puts others at risk, the news agency said.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 5:39 AM