France facing tough new measures as record Covid surge continues

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French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce new Covid measures after a cabinet meeting on Monday as the country reels under a new surge in the number of cases due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Officials have warned that French 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 that the number of daily cases could continue to increase rapidly until at least mid-January, even though millions of people have received booster shots in recent weeks.

Nearly 3,300 patients are currently in intensive care wards, again above the threshold of 3,000 set by the authorities as manageable.

Macron will hold a crisis meeting at 4:00 pm via videolink from his Mediterranean holiday retreat at Bregançon with key members of his cabinet and representatives of French public health bodies.

What's on the menu?

One measure under consideration is to restrict admission to restaurants, cinemas and other public venues to people who are fully vaccinated -- and no longer 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 the four-week closure ordered on 6 December.

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 3 January.

Masks could also be required even outdoors, 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. Some 22 million people out of an eligible 40 million have received Covid booster shots.

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