France to roll out new COVID-19 restrictions as Omicron surges

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – France has announced new COVID-19 measures in a bid to stem a surge in infections as concern rises worldwide over the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

From January 3, working from home will be mandatory for at least three days per week for those who can do so, while public gatherings will be limited to 2,000 people indoors, and to 5,000 people for outdoor events, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said late on Monday.

Consumption of food and drink will be banned on public transport – including on long-distance routes – as well as in cinemas, theatres and sports facilities. In bars and restaurants, all food and drink will have to be consumed seated, not standing.

The new rules will be in place for at least three weeks, Castex said, but there will be no curfew for New Year’s Eve and schools will reopen as planned in early January.

The moves came after France on Saturday recorded more than 100,000 COVID-19 infections in a single day for the first time since the pandemic erupted.

More than one in 100 people in the Paris region have tested positive in the past week, according to the capital’s regional health service. Most new infections were linked to Omicron, which government experts predict will become the dominant strain in France in the coming days.

Castex stressed that hospitals’ intensive care units were not currently overburdened because more than 90 percent of France’s adults had been fully vaccinated, although he warned that the country was now in a “race against the clock” to speed up booster inoculations seen as critical to curtailing the spread of the new variant.

“I know that it feels like a film without ending, but a year ago we started our vaccination campaign and now we are one of the best vaccinated and best-protected people in the world,” he told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.

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