Big Story Coronavirus COVID-19

Norway lifts ban on flights from Britain introduced due to virus variant

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway is lifting its ban on flights from Britain, introduced to stop the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday, with planes allowed to land from January 2 at 1600 GMT.

Following the lead of other European nations, Norway on December 21 halted travel from Britain after news that the new variant of the virus was rapidly spreading.

Oslo announced on Thursday it would introduce from Jan. 2 mandatory Covid-19 tests for all people arriving in the Nordic country from abroad, either directly upon arrival or up to 24 hours after.

“If this strain should spread in Norway, it will probably mean a full lockdown of society,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday.

Norway’s 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was down to 113.6 as of Wednesday, the fourth lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Greece and Finland, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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UK scientists probe new coronavirus variant’s spread in children

Scientists in the UK are investigating the impact of a new mutant variant of coronavirus, named VUI-2020 12/01, on children and whether its faster transmission in parts of England is down to the younger segment of the population.

The government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) is monitoring the data to analyse this arc of the variant, which has led over 40 countries, including India, to suspend travel to and from the UK in order to try and contain the more infectious mutation. Earlier strains of coronavirus found it harder to infect children than adults, with one explanation being that children have fewer of the doorways called the ACE2 receptor the virus uses to enter a human body’s cells.

Professor Wendy Barclay, from Nervtag and Imperial College London, said the mutations to the virus appeared to be making it easier to breach those doorways.

“Therefore children are equally susceptible, perhaps, to this virus as adults, and therefore given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more children being infected,” she explained.

Experts do not believe that the new version is any greater threat to children’s health and the scientist behind the world’s first approved vaccine against Covid-19 has said the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs will work against the strain, though further investigation remains underway.

“The likelihood that our vaccine works… is relatively high,” said Ugur Sahin, chief executive of the German co-developer of the vaccine BioNTech.

Speaking on ‘Bild TV’ in Germany, Sahin said his company would investigate the mutation in the coming days and that he viewed the matter “with a degree of soberness”.

His message of some confidence comes as the UK reached the half a million milestone for vaccinations of the jabs, delivered to the elderly and most vulnerable sections of the country’s population.

“I can today announce that over half a million people, more than 500,000 people in the UK, have now received their first dose,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at a 10 Downing Street briefing on Monday evening.

“I find that a reason for hope and for confidence,” he said.

His address came as nearly 1,500 lorries piled up on the borders as France sealed off the UK amid fears of the new rapid spreading variant. Government ministers have been working to get the block lifted, with mass testing of the drivers being one option in order for the flow of goods to resume and truckers able to get back home in time for Christmas.

“Testing of some sort is part of the discussions that the transport secretary is having with his counterpart in France right now,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

“Getting those tests up and running can happen pretty quickly, but in terms of the details of that, that is something both the transport secretary and his counterpart will be discussing,” she said.

From initial reports of the new variant being more confined to London and southern parts of England, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has now confirmed that it is to be found “everywhere”. This would mean that a more nationwide stay-at-home lockdown might be on its way to add to the millions already under the Tier 4 level of the most stringent curbs and shutdown of businesses and activity.

Scotland Yard issued a statement urging the public to comply with the measures, which ban different households from mixing to try and curb the rapid spread of the deadly virus.

“Our message is clear. Anyone who thinks the rules are there to be broken, ignored, or do not apply to them is very mistaken. The rules are that you should stay at home. It is for your safety, the safety of your family and friends, and the safety of your communities,” said Commander Alex Murray, the Metropolitan Police lead for Covid.

The police forces across the UK have the authority to impose hefty fines for breaches of the rules and the most egregious cases can also lead to arrest.

The warnings come as the UK registered a daily infections total of 33,364 on Monday, with the death rate from Covid-19 mounting to 67,616.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Air travel demand is higher than ever in Australia, Jetstar says

Qantas Airways Ltd.’s low-cost carrier Jetstar said it will operate a record number of flights in Australia early next year as demand rebounds to higher than pre-pandemic levels.

With fewer than 50 active Covid-19 cases, Australia is experiencing a domestic holiday boom as internal travel restrictions ease. The scale of the recovery suggests air passenger traffic, which has been smashed globally by the crisis, can quickly recover if the threat of infection subsides.

Jetstar said Tuesday it plans an unprecedented 850 return flights a week on 55 routes by the end of March, more than 110% of its schedule before Covid-19. Airbus SE A320 planes that usually fly to Bali, Singapore and other overseas destinations will operate the extra services.

Jetstar is stoking demand for flights from mid-January onward with a sale of 300,000 seats, some of them as cheap as A$29 ($22). Almost 90% of Australians plan to travel domestically in 2021, the airline said, citing its own survey of 1,500 people.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Harking back to childhood, Britons mourn the decline of their high street

Browns department store has traded from pride of place on Eastgate Street in the northern English city of Chester since 1791, selling fashion, perfumes and afternoon tea to locals and tourists visiting the historic centre.

But the future of the imposing columned building is in doubt as its owner, British department store Debenhams, becomes the latest retailer to enter administration, hamstrung by the pandemic and changing shopping habits.

“It’s heart-breaking,” said local resident Sue Astbury, 53, who manages a chain of charity shops in the region.

Although she remembers visiting Browns as a child and the adventure of wandering around the nooks and crannies of the characterful store, she says she rarely goes shopping in Chester because of the traffic and the cost of parking.

“I do a vast amount of my shopping online because you don’t have to worry about parking and you can try on things in your own time,” she said.

Shoppers have shunned physical stores to avoid catching Covid-19, even outside of official lockdowns, and accelerated a shift to online shopping that was underway before the pandemic.

The effects are being felt throughout Britain’s high streets – main shopping drags where people bought everything from groceries to clothes. Many had been on the decline for decades even before the pandemic, struggling to adapt to modern times.

A record increase in the number of shuttered shops as Britain’s second wave of virus infections got underway has left streets and shopping centres pockmarked with empty units.

British retail job losses will rise about 65% to 235,704 this year versus last, the Centre for Retail Research predicts. About 25,000 jobs are at risk from the collapse of Debenhams and fashion retailer Arcadia Group combined – more than double the number employed on the country’s fishing fleets.

‘A treasure trove’

Browns of Chester, known as the “Harrods of the North” after the luxury London department store, was a must-visit for those visiting the city with its chandeliers, creaking floorboards and maze-like interior. Debenhams took it over in 1976.

“I remember my mum holding my hand tightly as we went around, especially when it was busy, as it was like a maze,” said Samantha Payne, a 45-year-old projects administrator who now lives in nearby Runcorn.

“It was just so posh – a treasure trove of so many nice things, from the perfume and jewellery counters on the ground floor to the bridal wear upstairs,” added Payne, who bought a beige silk bridesmaid dress there 20 years ago.

On a recent morning, the store was open but big “Store Closing” and “Everything Must Go” signs hung in its windows.

Retail investor Mike Ashley is in last-minute talks to buy Debenhams from administrators but has said there is no certainty that any transaction will take place.

Near Browns is the Grosvenor Shopping Centre with Arcadia Group stores including menswear chains Burton and Topman and women’s fashion stores Dorothy Perkins and Topshop. Arcadia collapsed into administration in November.

Local businesses worry that the closure of these shops – especially the landmark Browns – will mean even fewer people making the trip into the city centre. Parking at the Grosvenor Shopping Centre costs 7.80 pounds ($10.40) for three hours.

Festooned with lights

“I am concerned for the city centre,” says Ann Faulkner of The Cheese Shop, which has operated out of its small premises with bright blue and white striped awning for nearly 40 years.

On a recent morning, the shop was doing brisk trade ahead of Christmas even with just two customers allowed inside the shop at a time. The phone constantly rang with people placing orders.

“Visitors like going to those old-fashioned department stores,” she added, with reference to Chester’s popularity as a weekend-break destination.

Two lockdowns in England and a shortened Christmas trading period have piled pressure on retailers as they enter the crucial holiday season. In England, non-essential shops were allowed to reopen on Dec. 2 for the first time in four weeks.

In Chester, streets festooned with lights were busy with masked Christmas shoppers. Although shopper traffic in England surged 150% on December 2 from the previous week as shops re-opened, it was still down over a quarter from last year.

Britons were already among the biggest online shoppers in the world pre-Covid-19. UK e-commerce has accelerated this year, and the habits built up over the pandemic are expected to stick.

Online shopping has grown 52.8% since February, according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics.

In Chester, The Cheese Shop spent around 3,000 pounds to set up an online store in September.

“I don’t think we could have survived this Christmas without the online option,” she said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Theatre uses its creativity to defy pandemic and stage shows

There’s theatre on Broadway. You just have to adjust your sights.

More than a hundred blocks north of Manhattan’s shuttered theatre district but on that same famed thoroughfare, an actor recently read his lines from a huge stage.

But there was no applause. Instead, all that was heard was a strange command for the theatre: “And cut!”

Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays was performing multiple roles for a high-tech “A Christmas Carol” that was being filmed for streaming this month at the empty 3,000-seat United Palace.

The one-man show is an example of how many who work in theatre are increasingly defying Covid-19 by refusing to let it stop their art, often creating new hybrid forms.

“Because it’s such a roll-up-your-sleeves business, theatre people figure it out,” said Tony Award-winning producer Hunter Arnold, while watching Mays onstage.

Live theatre is uniquely tested by the virus, one reason it will be among the last sectors to return to normal. Props and costumes are usually touched by dozens each night, an orchestra is crammed into a pit, backstage areas are small and shared, and audiences are usually packed into seats. New ways are needed.

Mays’ “A Christmas Carol,” which was filmed on a high-tech LED set, veers much more filmic than most other streaming theatre options and is raising money for suffering regional theatres — one stage production helping others during the pandemic.

Other green shoots include radio plays, virtual readings, online variety shows and drive-in experiences that combine live singing with movies. A musical version of the animated film “Ratatouille” is being explored on TikTok.

“We will conquer it. We are theatre people. By God, we will conquer it and get it done,” says Charlotte Moore, the artistic director and co-founder of the acclaimed Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City.

Her company has put on a free streaming holiday production of “Meet Me in St. Louis” with a dozen cast members, each filmed remotely and then digitally stitched together. Moore directed it — appropriately enough — from St. Louis.

The cast was mailed or hand-delivered props, costumes and a green screen. They rehearsed via Zoom and FaceTime. A masked and socially distant orchestra recorded the score.

Like many other theatrical hybrids venturing into the digital world these days, it’s not clear what to call it. It’s not technically live theatre, but its soul is theatrical.

“It’s not definable in our current vocabulary,” Moore said. “It has to have a new definition, truly, because it’s certainly unlike anything that has been done.”

One of the companies to show the way forward was Berkshire Theatre Group in western Massachusetts, whose “Godspell” in August became the first outdoor musical with union actors since the pandemic shut down productions.

Artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire refused to entertain the notion that the company — established in 1928 — would have an asterisk beside 2020 that said no shows were produced that year.

“We’re theatre makers, we’re creators, she said. ”We should be able to figure out how to create something.”

So they used plexiglass partitions between each masked actor. The performers were tested regularly — at a cost of close to $50,000 — and had their own props and a single costume. In an open-air tent, they managed to pull off a crucifixion scene without any touching or lifting, itself a miracle.

Audiences underwent temperature checks and were separated by seats. Staff were placed in three protective bubbles: artistic, production and front-of-house. And there was monitoring: Last year it was an intimacy officer; this year it was a Covid-19 one.

Since that first brave step, other theatre companies have plunged into the void. Play and musical licensor Concord Theatricals says theatre companies across the country are looking for flexibility in case of virus restrictions.

“We’re seeing many groups applying for small cast, easy to produce, plays and musicals. They’re even seeking casting flexibility and asking for permission to perform with or without an ensemble,” said Sean Patrick Flahaven, chief theatricals executive.

Playwright Natalie Margolin decided to write a new play during the pandemic but not a conventional one. She imagined what the world would look like when it was a given that all social life existed on Zoom.

Hence “The Party Hop,” a play specifically to be performed on Zoom that’s set three years into quarantine in which three college girls hit the town — online. It became her first published play, and she got stars such as Ben Platt and Ashley Park to perform in an online version, currently on YouTube. She hopes high schools and colleges will be attracted to a play reflecting the era.

Theatre makers have also leaned into the storytelling part of their craft, making The Broadway Podcast Network a hub for everything from audition advice to behind-the-scenes stories.

Launched shortly before the pandemic with 15 podcasts, the theatre shutdown initially wiped out its revenue streams, advertising and sponsorship. The network has since righted itself and is growing with some 100 podcasts — from the likes of Tim Rice and Tonya Pinkins — plus benefits, show reunions and original programs, like the digital theater-based frothy soap opera, “As the Curtain Rises” with stars Alex Brightman, Sarah Stiles and Michael Urie.

“It’s not anything that will ever replace live theatre, but it’s an extension. It’s a different way of doing that,” said Dori Berinstein, co-founder of the network.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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EU stops short of advising against holiday travel over virus

As millions of European citizens gear up for the festive season, the European Union’s executive commission urged member countries to keep strong anti-Covid 19 restrictions in place to avoid a post-holiday surge of coronavirus cases and deaths but stopped short of advising against travel.

The European Commission said in non-binding recommendations published Wednesday that easing pandemic-containment measures this month would jeopardize the efforts that have helped slow infections across the EU in recent weeks.

According to predictions made by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, lifting all anti-coronavirus restrictions on December 21 would result in “a subsequent increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions…as early as the first week of January 2021.”

New confirmed cases are falling steadily across Europe, where more than 300,000 people with Covid-19 have died. Until vaccines against the virus are rolled out, the EU commission is recommending prudence.

“Every 17 seconds a person loses their life due to Covid-19 in Europe,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. “The situation may be stabilizing, but it remains delicate. Like everything else this year, end of the year festivities will be different. This year, saving lives must come before celebrations.”

EU health ministers discussed the European Commission’s strategy Wednesday as European countries famous for their skiing resorts struggled to find a common approach.

Restrictions to slow the spread of the virus have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France and Germany but other nations have expressed concerns about the decision, which has a big economic impact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, supports a common approach.

Earlier this year, ski resorts in France, Italy and Austria were the sites of several superspreading events that helped seed Covid-19 outbreaks across the continent.

The commission, however, did not discourage tourism and cross-border travelling.

“Whilst travel itself is a risk factor, the generalized widespread transmission of Covid-19 across member states means that at present, intra-EU cross-border travel does not present a significant added risk,” it said.

Still, the commission “strongly discouraged” people with coronavirus symptoms from traveling and recommended vaccination against the season flu for travellers.

“Where possible, public transport options and capacities should be increased to reduce crowding, particularly on days or at times expected to be relatively busier to ensure social distancing,” it said. “The use of masks should be compulsory in public transport, and all vehicles should be well ventilated.”

To keep outbreaks in check, the EU’s executive arm also invited member nations to consider night time curfews, to ban mass gatherings to issue clear guidelines for small private reunions, and to consider extending school breaks or introducing a period of online teaching to prevent students from bringing the virus back to schools.

For EU members considering a temporary holiday-time loosening of their infection-control rules, the commission promoted the use of “household bubbles, which means that people are encouraged to spend the days of the festivities with the same people and to reduce further social contacts.”

The commission also recommended avoiding large religious services and for churches, synagogues and mosques to use online, TV or radio broadcasts instead.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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England offers travellers shorter quarantine with Covid tests

England said it will chop its 14-day quarantine for arrivals from high-risk countries by almost two-thirds if they take a coronavirus test, easing restrictions on air travel just in time for the Christmas holiday rush.

Airline shares surged after the Department for Transport published the new rules, which will come into force on December 15. England’s self-isolation period will be reduced to five days if a passenger tests negative for Covid-19 on or after the fifth day.

British Airways owner IAG SA gained as much as 6.6%, while EasyJet Plc soared up to 7.3% in London. Irish discounter Ryanair Holdings Plc and Wizz Air Holdings Plc also advanced.

While the announcement is a step forward for an industry battered by the travel slowdown, airlines have been seeking a complete removal of the U.K.’s quarantine system. The leaders of major carriers like Ryanair and IAG have roundly criticize the policy and blamed it for making an unprecedented crisis for the industry worse.

The new rules are “a vital first step to reopening the skies in the run-up to Christmas,” Shai Weiss, chief executive officer of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., said in a statement. However, “a five-day quarantine is likely to prove a significant deterrent for travelers, especially those on business.” He called for a move to pre-departure testing that would completely replace self-isolation.

London is normally Europe’s busiest travel market, with six airports serving the U.K. capital. This year, the normally robust flow of globe-trotting passengers has been disrupted by the virus, which prompted a hodgepodge of mis-matched restrictions for arrivals from different countries.

Weekly changes to a so-called air corridor list has been especially jarring to travellers, with arrivals from excluded nations suddenly subject to the fortnight of self-isolation. Complicating matters, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have maintained separate lists of safe country pairs.

Testing arrivals after five days will minimize the risk of a false-negative by allowing the virus to incubate, the government said. Those that don’t get an assessment must continue to have to isolate for the full two weeks, it said.

The government said that by asking travelers to take a private test, they will avoid overburdening the National Health Service.

“We know there is pent-up demand for travel and we support any move which will help get Britain and the economy flying again,” Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, said in a statement.

Wizz Air said Tuesday it would offer discounted test packages for fliers, priced at 85 pounds ($114) a person instead of the usual 110 pound charge, giving travellers a Covid-negative certificate that would allow them to travel or reduce the quarantine.

Testing push

With international travel in the doldrums, countries are beginning to embrace testing to shorten or do away with quarantines for arriving passengers.

This month, BA announced it would offer coronavirus tests to some fliers to London from the U.S. to demonstrate how testing could replace quarantines. The carrier said it would share data from those trials with the government.

The first vaccines are expected to become available in coming months. That’s prompted a rash of technology solutions to monitor travellers’ Covid credentials and combat false claims by people desperate to fly.

The International Air Transport Association said Monday that it’s developing a mobile app that will help travelers demonstrate their coronavirus-free status, including a negative test or proof of vaccine.

IATA’s efforts follow similar offerings by CommonPass, which was developed by the World Economic Forum and non-profit Commons Project Foundation, as well as the AOKpass from travel security firm International SOS that is in use between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan.

United Airlines, which participated in CommonPass’s U.S.-U.K. trials, said Monday it would extend Covid testing to flights from Houston to destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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‘People need mountains’: Swiss ski resorts buck Alpine lockdowns

Blue skies over the Matterhorn drew skiers and snowboarders to Zermatt on Saturday, as well as police to break up crowds, as Switzerland’s modest coronavirus restrictions allowed near-normal operations while other Alpine resorts keep their lifts shut.

France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even the high-altitude lifts that could be running this early in the winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak-season, if and when the infection rate slows.

Switzerland, despite being a second-wave coronavirus hotspot with 5,000 infections a day and mounting deaths, is hoping that a middle way of social distancing, limits on gatherings and mask-wearing on lifts can prop up pillars of the economy such as tourism without fuelling the pandemic.

“If it’s open, I’ll definitely ski,” said Swede Max Ahlstedt, on the glacier where Zermatt offers year-round skiing. “You just have to … accept wearing a mask.”

Over the border in Cervinia, on the Italian side of the glacier, the lifts have been closed indefinitely since Oct. 25.

Some Swiss resorts, including Davos to the northwest, boast of “cold-fogging” equipment to blast the interiors of gondolas and “kill 99.9% of viruses, bacteria and spores in a minute”.

The Swiss tourism association has even adopted “Clean & Safe” as its motto in the hope of easing tourists’ nerves.

And there is no denying the sense of release from confinement that a day on the slopes can bring.

“It’d be worse if you couldn’t go to the mountains at all,” said Anne Spiegler, a German living in Zurich.

Swiss skier Jean-Francois Paschoud said that it “makes you forget the mask measures”.

Swiss resorts know that the number of guests from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany or Scandinavia will inevitably be far below the levels of a normal season as the wait for a vaccine stunts cross-border travel.

Other countries will be glad to start their winter tourist season at all.

In Austria, the Kitzsteinhorn glacier near Zell am See and the Hintertux glacier near Mayrhofen both hope to reopen on Dec. 6, the moment that a national lockdown ends – and to banish memories of an outbreak among visitors last February in the Tyrolean resort of Ischgl that spread coronavirus across Europe.

Zermatt Mayor Romy Biner-Hauser still thinks the future looks bright: “People need vacation,” he says. “People need mountains.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Is the Pandemic Harming Kids’ Mental Health?

By Alan Mozes HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 13, 2020 (HealthDay) — Since last April, hospital emergency rooms across the United States have seen a sustained surge in visits related to the mental health of school-aged kids, a new report reveals.

The findings suggest the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on children because of disruptions to their everyday life, anxiety about illness and social isolation. That conclusion comes from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of data on hospitals in 47 states. Those hospitals account for nearly three-quarters of emergency department visits nationwide.

The study tracked emergency visits involving children under age 18 who sought care for a mental health issue between Jan. 1 and Oct. 17, 2020.

“Our study looked at a composite group of mental health concerns that included conditions that are likely to increase during and after a public health emergency, such as stress, anxiety, acute post-traumatic stress disorder and panic,” said lead author Rebecca Leeb, a health scientist at the CDC in Atlanta who is part of its COVID-19 Response Team.

“We found that from March through October, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits increased 24% for children aged 5 to 11, and 31% among teenagers aged 12 to 17 years, compared to 2019,” Leeb said.

Pediatric mental health visits actually dropped off dramatically from mid-March to mid-April, when stay-at-home orders were in effect in much of the country. Since then, however, such visits have steadily increased, according to the report.

But Leeb said interpreting the numbers is not straightforward.

On the one hand, she said even the large jumps seen in the report likely underestimate the total number of pediatric mental health emergencies. “Many mental health care encounters occur outside of emergency departments,” Leeb explained.

But additional research indicates emergency department visits as a whole dropped significantly between January and October. And that, Leeb said, might mean that “the relative proportion of emergency department visits for children’s mental health-related concerns may be inflated.”

Regardless, Leeb said the findings show that many kids’ mental health was sufficiently concerning to prompt ER visits at a time when the public was being discouraged from using emergency departments for anything but the most critical care.

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Cambodia’s new virus rules restrain holiday celebrations

Cambodians marked their Independence Day holiday Monday, but new coronavirus restrictions kept them from celebrating at karaoke parlours, beer gardens, museums, cinemas and other entertainment venues, which have been ordered shut until further notice.

Students in Phnom Penh, the capital, and the satellite town of Kandal will not be returning to schools on Tuesday as an Education Ministry order to contain the spread of the virus has shut them down in those places for two weeks.

The new restrictions were issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday because Hungary’s foreign minister tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Cambodia last week.

Peter Szijjarto tested positive upon arrival in Thailand on Tuesday following his one-day Cambodia visit. He was placed in quarantine in Bangkok before leaving for Hungary on Wednesday.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Saturday that a Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said the bodyguard was the only one of more than 900 people who were involved with Szijjarto’s visit to test positive.

Hun Sen and four Cabinet ministers are in quarantine because they met with Szijjarto the same day he tested positive. Hun Sen said he has tested negative and will abide by the country’s coronavirus guidelines and stay quarantined for 14 days.

All the people involved with the Hungarian foreign minister’s trip were undergoing a second coronavirus test Monday. They will be tested four times during the 14-day quarantine period.

Education Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha issued a statement Monday saying Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium would close its gym and other facilities because the infected Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto also coached sports there.

In his Saturday audio message, Hun Sen said he would not declare a national or local state of emergency, or bar travel by people not involved, but urged people to observe Health Ministry guidelines.

Cambodia has reported a total of 297 cases of the coronavirus, with no deaths.

The Education Ministry said the school shutdown was necessary because it has been unable to collect enough information from the parents of those students who had direct or indirect contact with Szijjarto.

Schools throughout Cambodia reopened on November 2 after being closed since March due to the coronavirus, but with limited class sizes and hours.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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