French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to deliver his annual New Year's Eve speech on Friday afternoon, hours after the country announced that Omicron had become the dominant variant and as it grapples with a surge in Covid-19 cases.
More than 60% of coronavirus tests are now showing a profile compatible with Omicron, data released by the government late Thursday showed. The variant accounted for just 15% of all cases in mid-December, but holiday gatherings in recent weeks have fueled its spread and sparked a surge in infections.
Omicron variant cases are doubling every two to three days, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Wednesday, reporting that France set another new daily record high of 208,000 coronavirus cases in 24 hours. "We are seeing numbers that give you vertigo," Veran told a parliamentary health commission in Paris.
Earlier this month, French ministers tightened travel restrictions for the United Kingdom, citing concerns over the spread of Omicron. But on Thursday, the French Interior Ministry announced that British nationals who are legal residents of an EU country would be allowed to transit through France over the holiday period.
To curb the spread of Omicron, France has also announced it will require a new "vaccine pass," replacing the previous "health pass," which could be obtained by providing a recent negative Covid test instead of proof of vaccination. The new system will to come into force from January 15 in restaurants, as well as in some of the country’s public transportation.
President Macron has pledged to ramp up restrictions on the unvaccinated, but has stopped short of making the vaccine compulsory.