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France fears over 1 lakh daily Covid cases by year end as Omicron tally rises

The country recorded almost 73,000 new infections on Tuesday, with an average of over 54,000 over the last seven days. 

Published: 22nd December 2021 04:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd December 2021 04:58 PM   |  A+A-

Shoppers wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 walk along the Christmas market at Tuilerie garden in Paris, France (Photo | AP)

Shoppers wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 walk along the Christmas market at Tuilerie garden in Paris, France (Photo | AP)

By Agencies

PARIS: The number of daily Covid-19 cases in France is set to exceed 100,000 by the end of December due to the faster-spreading Omicron variant, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday.

"This is what the modelling is showing," he told BFM-TV in an interview, also announcing that France would from Wednesday open vaccinations to five- to 11-year-olds for the first time.

France recorded almost 73,000 new infections on Tuesday, with an average of over 54,000 over the last seven days. But officials fear that the emergence of Omicron has changed the nature of the pandemic.

Veran said that Omicron cases accounted for 20 per cent of new infections in France but up to 35 per cent in the Paris region. 

He said the variant was expected to account for the majority of new cases between Christmas and the New Year.

"There is one certainty. Omicron is very contagious, it will spread, and no country will be spared," said Veran, emphasising that vaccines did have an effect on the variant.

President Emmanuel Macron is keeping a close eye on the spread of Omicron, with his handling of the pandemic set to be a crucial issue in the 2022 presidential elections.

ALSO READ | Ensure no Christmas, New Year gathering in Delhi, says DDMA amidst Omicron scare

Unlike some European neighbours like the Netherlands, France has not re-imposed tough restrictions ahead of Christmas to slow its spread.

But the country has one of the strictest health pass systems in Europe, with proof of full vaccination, recovery or a recent test needed to enter catering and cultural establishments.

The government is now introducing legislation to tighten this further to transform the health pass into a vaccine pass, meaning it will only be valid with a full course of vaccination and not through testing or recovery. 

On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex met mayors and lawmakers to persuade them to support tougher vaccine rules.

France's virus hospitalisation numbers have shot up in recent weeks, with some 16,000 people currently hospitalised with COVID-19 and 60 per cent of the country's ICU beds occupied by virus patients.

Confirmed weekly virus infections are at the highest level in France since the pandemic began.

Most are infected with the delta variant but more than one in three new cases in the Paris region is the fast-spreading omicron variant, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

The French government wants a law passed by the end of next month requiring vaccination to enter restaurants and many public venues.

Currently, a "health pass" is required to enter all such spaces in France, but people can get the pass with either a vaccination certificate, a negative virus test or proof of recent recovery from COVID-19.

France is ramping up vaccination and booster efforts, with doses made available to all children 5-11 starting Wednesday.

More than 89 per cent of French people 12 and over have had at least two doses, and about a third have had three doses.



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