ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria’s leader on Wednesday ordered all elementary and high schools closed for 10 days because of surging COVID-19 infections in the North African country and authorities tightened entry requirements at airports.

The decision by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to cancel classes starting Thursday came after an emergency meeting Wednesday of the Council of Ministers, members of the COVID-19 scientific committee and the country’s security officials.

The presidential statement said university staff and health authorities should decide themselves whether to continue with in-person classes.

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

Tebboune urged officials to set a “robust testing structure” in public heath facilities and in 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 vaccine hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused. Less than a quarter of Algeria’s population has had even one vaccine dose.

The pass is also required for anyone entering or leaving Algeria, as well as for entering sports facilities, cinemas, theaters, museums, town halls and other sites like hammams — bath houses that are popular across the region.

Official figures show Algeria has seen 6,433 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began, but even members of the government’s scientific committee admit the real figure is much higher. Out of fears of being blamed for getting the virus, some Algerians keep their infections secret, which then puts others at risk.

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