Paris: France is seeing a tsunami of COVID-19 infections, with 208,000 new cases recorded over the past 24 hours, a national and European record, Health Minister Olivier Veran told lawmakers 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.
Every second, two people in France are testing positive for COVID-19, Veran said, adding that the situation in hospitals was worrying because of the Delta variant, with Omicron yet to have an impact. The flu will further complicate things for hospitals, he said.
The situation in French hospitals was already worrying because of the Delta variant, Veran said, with Omicron yet to have an impact, something he said would eventually happen.
"We have two enemies," he said, referring to the two main variants. "As for Omicron, I would no longer talk about a wave. This is a groundswell, where several waves combine to form one massive wave," he said.
The flu will further complicate things for hospitals, he added.
"I'm not ill, I just have a dry throat," said Veran, who repeatedly coughed during the hearing, triggering nervous laughter from those sitting next to him.
While the government has ruled out a curfew in mainland France, on the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, where the number of cases is particularly high, a curfew will be imposed from 9pm to 5am from Jan. 1 to Jan. 23.
The news comes as France's government is forging ahead with efforts to increase pressure on unvaccinated people to get coronavirus jabs.
At a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday afternoon, the health minister plans to defend a French government plan to allow only fully vaccinated individuals access to places such as restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums, and sports arenas.
Speeding up the introduction of the so-called ``vaccine pass'' forms part of a government strategy to use vaccinations, rather than new lockdowns, to try to soften the impact of the fast-spreading omicron variant on already overburdened hospitals.
France reported nearly 180,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a daily record, and is bracing for the number to keep increasing, with forecasts warning of more than 250,000 daily infections likely by January.
France has vaccinated more than 75% of its population and is rushing out booster shots, but more than 4 million adults in the country remain unvaccinated.
The government wants the vaccine pass requirement to be in place by mid-January. If approved by parliament, the plan would mean that unvaccinated people will no longer be able to use negative test results to visit places where the pass is required.
Global COVID-19 infections hit a record high over the past seven days, Reuters data showed on Wednesday, as the new Omicron variant spread rapidly, keeping many workers at home and overwhelming testing centres.
Parents sue authorities
Meanwhile, parents of a 10-year-old girl in France are suing the authorities after their daughter received a Moderna vaccine only allowed for adults over feared side effects, officials said Wednesday.
“A complaint has been filed by the father over this,” state prosecutor Cyril Lacombe told AFP, confirming reports in local media.
The ARS regional health service said the girl was mistakenly administered the Moderna shot on December 22 at the vaccination centre in Avranches, a town along the Channel coast.
“Health professionals at the centre realised the mistake immediately, and the doctor in charge consulted with the family,” the ARS said in a statement, noting that “the child is doing well”.
France and several other countries are not letting children receive the Moderna vaccine over a potential risk of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle.
The rare side effect has been detected in adolescents and young adults, especially males, prompting officials to reserve the Pfizer/BioNTech jab for children aged five to 12.
The ARS said the doctor explained to the parents how to recognise any symptoms of heart inflammation, which is “reversible and not serious”.
Joanny Allombert, director of the Avranches hospital, said the girl was mistakenly put in the wrong waiting queue.
“The girl was asked to sit in the wrong place because there was no more room where she should have been,” he told France Bleu radio. “And things went wrong from there.”
“The nurse made the injection but realised her mistake right away,” he added.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines rely on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology, a cutting-edge process that introduces a “blueprint” of the coronavirus spike protein into the body, which can then recognise it and fight it in case of infection.
Moderna, which has filed for approval of its vaccine for young children with the European Medicines Agency, said in October that clinical trials had shown positive results.