France is seeing a “tsunami” of Covid-19 infections with 208,000 new cases reported over the past 24 hours - a national and European record - Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday.
France has been breaking Covid-19 records repeatedly over the past few days, with Tuesday’s 180,000 cases already the highest for a country in Europe, according to data on Covidtracker.fr.
“This means that 24 hours a day, day and night, every second in our country, two French people are diagnosed positive for the coronavirus,” Mr Veran said. “We have never experienced such a situation,” he said, describing the increase in cases as “dizzying”.
It comes as an analysis by Reuters showed global Covid-19 infections hit a record high over the past seven days.
Almost 900,000 cases were detected on average each day around the world between December 22-28, with myriad countries posting new all-time highs over the past 24 hours, including the United States, Australia and many European nations.
Almost two years after China first reported a cluster of “viral pneumonia” cases in the city of Wuhan, the regularly mutating coronavirus is still wreaking havoc, forcing numerous governments to rethink quarantine and test rules.
Although studies have suggested the Omicron variant is less deadly than some of its predecessors, the huge numbers of people testing positive mean that hospitals in some countries might soon be overwhelmed, while businesses might struggle to carry on operating because of workers having to quarantine.
France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta all registered a record number of new cases on Tuesday, while the average number of daily Covid-19 cases in the United States hit a record 258,312 over the past seven days, according to a Reuters tally on Wednesday.
The previous peak was a figure of 250,141 registered in early January, this year.
New daily infections in Australia spiked to nearly 18,300 on Wednesday, eclipsing the previous pandemic high of around 11,300 hit a day earlier.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country needed “a gear change” to manage overburdened laboratories, with long walk-in and drive-in queues reported in a number of areas.
Testing bottlenecks have also built in European nations, including Spain where demand for free Covid-19 testing kits provided by Madrid's regional government far outstripped, with long queues forming outside pharmacies.
A number of governments were also increasingly worried by the huge numbers of people being forced into self-isolation because they had been in contact with a coronavirus sufferer.
“We just can't have everybody just being taken out of circulation because they just happen to be at a particular place at a particular time,” Mr Morrison told reporters.
Italy was expected to relax some of its quarantine rules on Wednesday over fears the country will soon grind to a halt given how many people are having to self-isolate protectively, with cases doubling on Tuesday from a day earlier to 78,313.
However, China showed no let up in its policy of zero tolerance to outbreaks, keeping 13 million people in the city of Xian under rigid lockdown for a seventh day as new Covid-19 infections persisted, with 151 cases reported on Tuesday.