France tightens covid restrictions amid Omicron surge

FILE PHOTO: French citizens wait for a tram to return to France after doing their shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kehl, Germany, October 16, 2020, REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

France has announced tighter Covid restrictions amid concerns over the Omicron variant. From 3 January, remote working will become compulsory for those who can, and public gatherings will be limited to 2,000 people for indoor events.

The news comes as France recorded more than 100,000 new infections on Saturday, the highest number reported in the country since the pandemic began. But France’s prime minister did not bring in a New Year’s Eve curfew.

Countries across Europe are tightening restrictions as infections rise and the new Omicron variant spreads through the continent.

Studies suggest the strain is milder than Delta, with a 30% to 70% lower chance of infected people ending up in hospital. But there are fears the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters the pandemic felt like a film without an ending as he unveiled the new measures at a news conference following a crisis cabinet meeting.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said coronavirus infections were doubling every two days, warning of a mega wave of new cases.

The new rules also include limits on outdoor public gatherings, which will be restricted to 5,000 people – and a ban on eating and drinking on long distance transport.

Nightclubs will remain closed until further notice and cafés and bars will be able to provide table service only. Employees who work from home will have to do so at least three days a week. Mask-wearing will become compulsory in city centres.

The government is also shortening the length of time between booster shots from four months after the last vaccination to three months.

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