The Netherlands will ease some of the toughest Covid-19 restrictions in Europe, allowing shops, gyms and hairdressers to reopen.

Bars, restaurants, cafes and cultural locations will however remain closed until at least 25 January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the first press conference since a new government was sworn in earlier this week.

Mr Rutte said the relaxation was an "exciting moment" for the Netherlands, which spent Christmas and the New Year under lockdown since the restrictions were tightened on 19 December.

Non-essential shops and other businesses can open daily until 5pm from Saturday, along with sports clubs and higher education. Schools reopened on 10 January.

New Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said the government had decided to start reopening society, with Covid hospital admissions falling, despite a surge in infections with the Omicron variant to some 200,000 a week.

But Mr Rutte said that it was too soon to open bars and other catering establishments, warning that new cases could soon reach 75,000 or 80,000 a day.

Several Dutch cities have said they will not stop hard-hit cafes and restaurants reopening during the daytime this Saturday, in defiance of the government rules, but will crack down again after that.

Hong Kong suspends transit flights from most of world

Hong Kong has reported around 50 cases of Omicron since the end of December

Hong Kong will suspend transit flights for a month from around 150 countries and territories considered high risk because of the coronavirus, deepening the global financial hub's isolation.

The move comes as the city has seen around 50 cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant since the end of last year.

Prior to the outbreak, which authorities said could be traced back to two aircrew members of Cathay Pacific Airways, the city had had no local transmissions for over three months.

Hong Kong International Airport said in a statement today that any persons who have stayed in places classified as high risk by health authorities in the 21 days before travelling cannot transit through the city from 16 January until 15 February.

The measure was taken "in order to control the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant," it said.

Hong Kong currently classifies more than 150 countries and territories as high risk.

Swedish PM tests positive for Covid as fourth wave surges

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has tested positive for Covid-19, her spokesperson said, as a growing wave of infections swept the country driven by the more contagious Omicron variant.

Ms Andersson is one of several party leaders to have tested positive for the virus in the wake of a debate in parliament earlier this week while Sweden's king, queen and crown princess have all been hit with infections this month.

Magdalena Andersson is working remotely

The Nordic country has repeatedly set new daily records for Covid cases this month amid a mounting fourth wave of the virus, raising pressure on the healthcare system and triggering the reimposition of many restrictions.

"She is following the current recommendations and will perform her duties from home. The PM is feeling well, given the situation," the spokesperson said.

The health agency expects cases, currently hitting highs of around 25,000 per day, to peak later this month when Sweden could reach almost 70,000 daily cases, according to its modelling.

Shanghai cuts some tourism trips after brief resumption

Shanghai has suspended some tourism activities as part of its efforts to head off a handful of sporadic new local transmissions, while it also faces an increase in Covid-19 infections from overseas.

Shanghai's tourism and culture authority said travel agencies and online tourism companies must once again halt organising group tours between Shanghai and other provinces, regions or municipalities, after the city reported five new domestically transmitted infections yesterday, all linked to a previous arrival from overseas.

The order, in line with a national guideline to cut tourist activities in provincial divisions where new infections have emerged, came less than a month after Shanghai lifted a previous suspension that had come into effect in November, according to local government statements and a report by a newspaper managed by China's tourism authority.

Empty roads in an area closed off due to a Covid outbreak in Huaxian county

The risk of the virus entering from overseas has increased in Shanghai, with new imported cases during the first 10 days of this month already exceeding December's total, according to Reuters calculations.

It is unclear how many were caused by the Omicron variant.

There were further signs that Shanghai, one of China's most populous cities, was raising its Covid-19-related vigilance ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday travel peak later this month.

Those arriving in Shanghai from other low virus-risk parts of China should reduce gatherings in the first week of arrival, and residents are advised not to leave town unnecessarily during the Lunar New Year holiday, a local disease control expert during the same news conference.

China reported a total of 143 local confirmed cases, and four domestically transmitted asymptomatic carriers for 13 January.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of 13 January, mainland China had 104,580 confirmed symptomatic cases, including both local ones and those arriving from overseas.

Welsh government set to ease Covid rules

The Welsh government is to set out a two-week plan to ease coronavirus restrictions.

First Minister Mark Drakeford will reveal his road map for returning to alert level 0, during a press conference in Cardiff this afternoon.


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Wales has been on alert level 2 since Boxing Day, which includes measures such as mask-wearing in all public venues, the two-metre rule and the rule of six in hospitality settings.

Nightclubs have also been forced to shut.

However, current data shows falling case numbers and a decline in the number of patients in critical care beds.

The move to alert level 0 is expected to be phased, with restrictions on outdoor activities being removed first.

Additional reporting PA