France has recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled in the past month, as the fast-spreading Omicron variant forced the French to halt a new lockdown. The government’s efforts have been complicated.
According to the regional health service, more than 1 in 100 people in the Paris region have tested positive in the past week. Most of the new infections are linked to the Omicron variant, which government experts predict will dominate France in the coming days. Omicron is already in effect in the UK across the channel.
Meanwhile an increase in delta-type infections in recent months is driving up hospitalizations in France, and again straining ICUs over the Christmas holidays. More than 1,000 people died of the virus in France in the past week, bringing the country’s total death toll to more than 122,000.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government is holding emergency meetings on Monday to discuss next steps to tackle the virus. Some scientists and teachers have urged a delay in returning to school after the holiday, or have suggested a reimposed curfew.
But France’s education minister says schools should open as usual on January 3, and other government officials are working to avoid measures that would stifle the country’s economic recovery.
Instead the French government is hoping that a phased vaccination will suffice. The government is pushing for a draft law that would require vaccination to enter all restaurants and many public places, instead of the current health pass system that allows people to test negative or submit proof of recovery if they are not vaccinated. Is.
In neighboring Belgium, the government imposed new measures from Sunday, ordering the closure of cultural venues such as cinema halls and concert halls.
Some venues defied the ban, and thousands of performers, event organizers and others protested against the decision in Brussels on Sunday, chanting “The Show Must Go On” or “No Culture No Future”. They accuse the Belgian government of double standards because it allowed Christmas markets, with their sultry crowds and drinking, to remain open, along with restaurants and bars.
Even the scientific committee advising the Belgian government did not ask for the closure of the culture industry, leaving the virologist Marc Van Ranst to consider, in Belgium, a “Gluwain beet culture”.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the Dutch government has gone much further than most European countries, closing all non-essential stores, restaurants and bars and partially extending school holidays in the new lockdown.
In Britain, where the Omicron version has been in effect for days, government requirements have been largely voluntary and modest compared to the continent, but the Conservative government said it could impose new restrictions after Christmas. Britain hit a new high of 122,186 daily infections on Friday but did not report Christmas figures.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland imposed new restrictions on socializing on Sunday, mainly limiting the size of gatherings, moves that the restaurant, pub and nightclub industries have described as financially disastrous.