Covid-19 in France

France rings in Christmas with highest number of Covid cases

Christmas in France brings a record number of new Covid cases, topping 91,600 on Thursday 23 December. “It’s worst number of cases since the epidemic started,” said Health minister, Olivier Véran. French scientists fear the virulence of the Omicron variant will severely disrupt crucial sectors in the country.

Shoppers enjoy the Christmas market in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Shoppers enjoy the Christmas market in Strasbourg, eastern France. AFP - SEBASTIEN BOZON

More than a month after the Omicron variant was detected, the French Covid-19 Scientific Council – which advises the government – gave a press conference during which it said that “over hundreds of thousands of cases” were expected daily in January.

According to Professor Arnaud Fontanet, epidemiologist and member of the council, Omicron is well-rooted in the Paris region and spreading fast across France.

Even though 97 percent of the registered cases three weeks ago belonged to the Delta variant strain, Jean-François Delfraissy, the chairman of the Scientific Council, said that Omicron being far more contagious than Delta would become the dominant strain of infection in the coming days.

“The problem is that we have never been faced with such a high number of new cases,” added Delfraissy.

“And we fear that our existing policy of isolating patients and contact tracing might severely disrupt strategic sectors of our economy, such as transport, food distribution, health and communication.”

'We won't be paralysed'

Véran insisted that France could not afford to be paralysed. He added the rules regarding isolation would probably have to change.

For the time being, a Covid-positive person must quarantine for 10 days. A person who has been in contact with a person who has tested positive for Omicron must quarantine for seven days, or up to 17 days if they live in the same household.

Véran announced on Friday that there are 100,000 free appointments available for vaccination on Christmas eve. And another million appointments will be made available next week before the New Year.

An emergency session of the council of French ministers will take place on 27 December as a response to the alarming rate of new Covid cases in France.

So far, President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister, Jean Castex, have sought to avoid another curfew or lockdown.

The Scientific Council gave the same advice for preventive measures as Macron did on social media: vaccination and booster jab, social distancing, masks and avoiding contact with others to curb the spread of the virus.

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