COVID cases skyrocket in France ahead of UK half-term holidays

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PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 05: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past the SNCF
Coronavirus cases have spiked in France ahead of the UK half-term holidays. (Getty)

Coronavirus cases have spiked in France ahead of the UK half-term holidays, with the destination one of the most popular among Brits.

France recorded 501,635 new COVID cases on Tuesday, taking the daily number above half a million for the first time, RTE reported.

The country now has the highest daily infection rates in Europe and has the most people in hospital since November 2020, with more than 30,000 admitted.

It comes as holiday firms are reporting a surge in bookings for foreign travel following the decision to drop testing and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in England.

The spike in cases in France is being fuelled by the more transmissible Omicron variant, with nearly 130,000 people having died from COVID.

France's  President Emmanuel Macron is seen during a meeting with representatives of families of 1962 repatriates from Algeria at the Elysee palace in Paris, on January 26, 2022. - The trauma of the Algerian War has poisoned French politics for the past 60 years. Macron, France's first leader born after the colonial era, has made a priority of reckoning with its past and forging a new relationship with former colonies. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
France's new COVID pass is part of President Emmanuel Macron's drive to increase vaccinations. (Getty)

France's Constitutional Council has approved a new vaccine pass, which will require people aged 16 and above to show proof of vaccination to enter public places like bars, restaurants and cinemas.

The new pass is part of president Emmanuel Macron's drive to make life difficult enough for the small minority of unvaccinated people that they are compelled to get COVID shots to help curb the spread of Omicron.

Read more: UK travel to France: What are the new rules?

From 11 February, fully vaccinated arrivals to the UK will no longer need to take a coronavirus test, and the requirement for those not in that category to self-isolate will be dropped.

Unvaccinated arriving travellers will no longer be required to take a day eight test or self-isolate for 10 days following arrival.

Airline Jet2.com and tour operator Jet2holidays reported a “notable increase in demand for holidays and flights” after the new policy was revealed on Monday afternoon, according to chief executive Steve Heapy.

Watch: Grant Shapps confirms plan to scrap travel tests for vaccinated passengers arriving in UK

Traditional hotspots such as Spanish islands, mainland Spain, Italy and Portugal are all proving popular with customers.

“Before yesterday’s announcement demand was already strong, however bookings have jumped by another 30% when compared with the previous week, demonstrating just how much of a game-changer the removal of all testing is for fully vaccinated holidaymakers," Heapy said.

“With international travel starting to look like it did before the pandemic, customers are jumping at the chance to book their flights and holidays.”

Eurostar said it will ramp up its train services in the coming weeks to meet increased demand.

Read more: COVID still a serious threat, warn German health officials

Among the destinations which require arrivals from the UK to take a coronavirus test, even if they are fully vaccinated, are Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, mainland Portugal, Switzerland and the US.

The UK’s most popular foreign holiday destination, Spain, does not require testing, but only fully vaccinated visitors are permitted to enter.

That means most children aged 12 to 15 cannot enter because they have not been fully vaccinated.

People line up in front of a fast COVID-19 testing tent near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, Dec. 23, 2021. (Photo by Gao Jing/Xinhua via Getty Images)
People line up in front of a fast COVID-19 testing tent near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. (Getty)

Meanwhile, several countries in Europe are planning new measures to battle record numbers of infections.

Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania all reported record daily infection totals on Wednesday and the German parliament prepared to debate proposals to either require or robustly encourage residents to be vaccinated.

Poland will move older school students to remote learning from Thursday and Sweden said it would extend its current pandemic measures by another two weeks after seeing the Omicron variant spreading at record speed.

With more than 10 million new cases, infections in Europe rose 13% last week compared to the one before, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), with France, Italy and Germany logging the highest numbers.

Denmark and Austria are the latest countries to ease COVID-19 restrictions, following similar moves by the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.

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