France to impose new restrictions in fight against rising Covid infections

Several measures announced after a crisis Cabinet meeting on the Omicron variant

Shoppers at a Christmas market in the Tuileries Garden in Paris on December 20. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron

The French government will order companies to impose at least three days a week in which employees must work from home where possible to stem a fifth wave of Covid infections, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday.

The measure, which will be in place for at least three weeks, is one of several announced after a crisis Cabinet meeting on the new Omicron coronavirus variant, which is threatening to overwhelm hospitals.

France on Saturday reported more than 100,000 daily Covid cases, a record since the pandemic began nearly two years ago, with many experts warning the number would rapidly increase in coming weeks.

Mr Castex said the country's "health pass" for access to restaurants, cinemas and more will now only be available to fully vaccinated people. A recent negative Covid test result for those unvaccinated will no longer be valid.

He said table seating only would be allowed in cafes and bars for three weeks, although he held off on a curfew for New Year's Eve festivities.

But face masks, already required in most indoor public spaces, could soon be required outdoors on city streets as well, he said.

What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?

A vial and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed South Africa flag and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Capacity limits will be reimposed for concerts, sports matches and other events at 2,000 people indoors, and 5,000 outside.

Mr Castex urged people to have booster shots, while praising the country's 78 per cent vaccination rate overall, a figure the government says represents 90 per cent of those eligible, or everyone older than 5.

But the government held off on postponing a return to class for pupils on January 3 after the holidays, a measure sought by about 50 doctors and health workers in an open letter published at the weekend.

Updated: December 27, 2021, 9:21 PM