France announces new measures, other countries lighten theirs, Valais closes a school: the news of Saturday, January 30

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The essential

The WHO mission in Wuhan has finally started its work.

In France, before closing on Monday, large shopping centers were taken by storm.

our follow-up on Friday 29

■ Valais is closing a school

The Valais Council of State announcement this saturday evening the closure of the Saint-Nicolas school for 10 days. “Eleven children and six teachers have tested positive for the coronavirus, among others with the British variant of the virus,” writes the government.

In another school, in Saint-Maurice, two elementary school classes were quarantined. Here too, the State evokes the variant discovered in Great Britain.

■ Influx into supermarkets in France

Last chance to repair your closet or to do the sales? On the eve of the closing of the largest stores and shopping centers, some customers are taking their precautions and increasing attendance, especially in the provinces, where many people are in a hurry, before they close on Sunday. This concerns stores of more than 20,000 square meters, the closure of which Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Friday in the face of the risk of an upsurge in the Covid-19 epidemic.

The government specifies, after a meeting with the sector, that 400 stores would be concerned in France: not only “shopping centers”, as initially announced, but also sites occupied by a single trade, as is for example the case for several Ikea establishments.

■ The Vatican reopens its museums

The Vatican Museums, which include the famous Sistine Chapel, are announcing their reopening from Monday, after being closed for 88 days due to restrictions linked to the pandemic.

This is the longest shutdown since World War II. The collections will be on view Monday through Friday, but visitors will need to pre-book their tickets and be assigned entry time slots.

■ Lightened semi-containment in Oslo

The Norwegian government has announced the lifting of several semi-containment measures in Oslo and its region, taken last weekend after the detection of cases of the British variant of the coronavirus in a locality near the capital.

Shops will be able to reopen from Wednesday in Oslo and in 24 other surrounding municipalities affected by the restrictions, as will restaurants which, however, still cannot serve alcohol. Shopping centers will remain closed.

Although the situation remains “uncertain (…) the infection is still on the decline in Norway, we now have a better overview of the spread of the mutated virus”, says Health Minister Bent Høie. If the municipalities concerned still have the option of closing schools and digital education for certain high schools and universities remains the rule, restrictions on sports and leisure activities will be relaxed on Wednesday.

■ Faced with new variants, countries are closing in

Concern over the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants is spreading to several countries which are closing their borders in Europe and elsewhere. After France, from today Germany is banning entry into its territory by land, sea and air of people from five countries strongly affected by the various variants of Covid-19.

Canada will also tighten entry restrictions on its soil, measures aimed at “discouraging travelers” in order to curb the spread of the new variants, admits Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mexico immediately asked him to reverse this decision.

■ Decrease in cases in the United States

In the United States, new cases of Covid and hospitalizations have been declining for two weeks, even if the total number of daily positive cases is even higher than in the summer. According to experts, the reasons for this improvement range from respecting barrier gestures to the fact that the holiday season, favorable to gatherings, is far away. And, at least in some states of the country, the virus has already infected a good part of the population: the effect of immunity also plays a role.

There are still more than 3,000 deaths per day, due to the delay between hospitalizations and deaths, but the curves are pointing in the right direction in a country where the epidemic has already killed more than 430,000 people.

■ Salve of the SVP against Alain Berset

SVP President Marco Chiesa denounces the Federal Council’s management of the coronavirus crisis. Faced with the pandemic, the SVP is “the only party in this country which retains its critical spirit (…) and which follows a coherent strategy”, affirms the Ticino during the virtual assembly of delegates.

Marco Chiesa denounces “the dilettantism of the Minister of Health Alain Berset and of the center-left majority of the Federal Council”. The policy carried out causes “incalculable social and economic damage”. The containment alone swallows up six million francs of taxpayer money per hour, while all the key indicators relating to the pandemic are down.

The State Councilor therefore demands the reopening of shops and restaurants, the continuation of face-to-face education in schools, the implementation of “effective” protection concepts in homes for the elderly and an acceleration of vaccination, systematic checks and tests at borders, the extension of tests to companies and, in a second stage, to demonstrations.

■ WHO visits Wuhan

WHO experts are going to Wuhan (central China) on Saturday in the first hospital to have received Covid-19 patients, on the second day of their field investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.

The first country hit by the epidemic, China is almost silent on this ultra-politically sensitive visit to Beijing, accused of having been slow to react to the first cases of Covid. The precise timetable of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) thus remains opaque: their messages on social networks as well as those of the WHO are the rare sources of information. The visit was an “important opportunity to speak directly with the doctors who were on the ground at this critical moment in the fight against COVID!”, Tweets Peter Daszak, one of the members of the delegation.

A strong doubt remains however on the interest of the elements that the investigators will be able to gather, more than a year after the start of the pandemic and in front of the Chinese authorities known for their opacity on the controversial subjects.