France weighs new Covid-19 restrictions in Omicron fight

<p>epa09647268 A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walk past the Opera Garnier in Paris, France, 17 December 2021. France is seeing new infection cases spike at nearly 60,000 every 24 hours.  EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT</p>
On Dec 25, France reported a record 100,000 cases. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce new Covid-19 measures on Monday (Dec 27) as the country braces for a new surge in cases due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Officials have warned that hospitals again risk being overwhelmed after a record 100,000 cases were reported on Saturday, the highest daily level in France since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.

Health experts have estimated the number of daily cases could increase rapidly by mid-January, even though millions of people have received booster shots in recent weeks.

Nearly 3,300 people are currently in intensive care, again above the crisis threshold of 3,000 set by the authorities for handling the worst cases.

Mr Macron will hold a crisis meeting at 4pm (11pm in Singapore) via video conference from his Mediterranean holiday retreat at Bregancon with key members of his Cabinet and representatives of French public health bodies.

One measure under consideration is to restrict the country's Covid-19 health pass, which is required to enter restaurants, cinemas and other public venues, only to people who are fully vaccinated - and no longer also to those with a recent negative test.

The pass as well as a negative test could also be required for bars or cafes without table seating, and possibly for nightclubs if they are allowed to reopen in January after a four-week closure ordered on Dec 6.

Some doctors have also suggested a curfew for New Year's Eve, while a group of health workers want to postpone the return of students to schools after the holidays, set for Jan 3.

Masks could also be required when outside, a measure already imposed in the Savoie region in the French Alps, and in other European countries.

Officials have been urging people not to hold parties or large family gatherings over the holidays, and some 22 million people out of an eligible 40 million have received Covid-19 booster shots.

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