Covid-19 cases “will continue to rise in the coming days,” health minister Olivier Veran told French radio station FranceInter on Monday.
France has reported record-breaking numbers of new infections as the country grapples with a fifth wave amidst the emergence of the Omicron variant, with daily tallies surpassing the 200,000 mark in recent days.
Minister Olivier Veran said that while these figures reflect officially recorded cases, there are “perhaps 500,000 new infections every day in reality.”
He added that while Omicron may cause less severe respiratory symptoms in patients, there have still been hospital admissions. Those that have caught the Omicron variant are taking up “conventional” (non-ICU) hospital beds while cases of the Delta variant are straining ICU departments.
According to Veran, ICU departments are still under “very strong pressure,” especially in Southern France. In the Marseille region, all Covid-19 patients in ICU beds were unvaccinated, as were 90% of patients in non-ICU beds.
Veran added that Omicron was threatening “dysfunction” in society as infections and contact cases are strangling economic activity.
On Sunday, the French government announced it would shorten the quarantine time for vaccinated people that test positive, while vaccinated people who come into contact with someone who has tested positive will no longer have to quarantine, as long as they test regularly.