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France announces tighter Covid restrictions

France announces tighter Covid restrictions

France has announced tighter Covid restrictions amid concerns over the Omicron variant. From Jan 3, remote working will become compulsory for those who can and public gatherings will be limited to 2,000 people for indoor events.

The news comes as France recorded more than 100,000 new infections on Saturday – the highest number reported in the country since the pandemic began.

Prime Minister Jean Castex unveiled the new measures at a news conference following a crisis cabinet meeting.

Health minister Olivier Veran said coronavirus infections were doubling every two days, warning of a "mega wave" of new cases.

The new rules also include limits on outdoor public gatherings – which will be restricted to 5,000 people – and a ban on eating and drinking on long distance transport.

Nightclubs will remain closed until further notice and cafes and bars will be able to provide table service only. Employees who work from home will have to do so at least three days a week. Mask-wearing will become compulsory in city centres.

The government is also shortening the length of time between booster shots from four months after the last vaccination to three months.

France's planned vaccine pass – which will require proof of vaccination, not just a negative test, to enter public spaces – will come into effect from Jan 15, if parliament approves a draft bill.

But Mr Castex did not introduce a full lockdown or New Year's Eve curfew. Schools will also reopen as planned on Jan 3.

According to the country's coronavirus dashboard, France currently has an average of more than 70,000 new daily infections.

On Monday, more than 1,600 new hospitalisations were recorded, bringing the total number of people in hospital as a result of Covid-19 to 17,000, according to data from France's public health authority.

Elsewhere in Europe, additional restrictions were announced in Germany and Greece as governments seek to stem the tide of positive cases.

Gatherings in Germany will be restricted in size from Dec 27 and gyms, swimming pools, nightclubs and cinemas will be closed to the public in several states. Private gatherings of vaccinated people will also be limited to a maximum of 10.

From Jan 3, the Greek government will require bars and restaurants to close by midnight and tables will be limited to six customers. Venues will not be allowed to cater for standing customers, and if they do not comply, music will be banned in those establishments, the Reuters news agency reported.

In contrast, in the UK, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said no further Covid restrictions will be implemented in England before the new year. But he said people should "remain cautious" and celebrate outside on New Year's Eve if possible.

Both England and Scotland reported record cases over Christmas.