PARIS: The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in France rose by 767 to 22,749 on Monday, the biggest increase since April 2021 as a runaway Omicron infection rate boosted hospitalisations.
Net new hospital admissions still remained well below peaks set in Nov-Dec 2020, when they stood over 700 for nearly a month and COVID-19 hospitalisations peaked at 33,497 on Nov. 16, 2020.
Health Minister Olivier Veran told lawmakers on Monday that the Omicron coronavirus variant leads to less serious complications than previous variants, but since it is highly infectious, it is pushing hospital numbers up quickly.
The health ministry on Monday reported close to 94,000 new coronavirus cases, pushing the seven-day moving average of new infections to 269,614, the 14th consecutive record number.
On Mondays, reported new infections usually drop sharply due to reporting lags on the weekend. In the past seven days, the one-day infections tally has been over 300,000 three times, and came in at more than 296,000 on Sunday.
The seven-day moving average – which smoothes out daily reporting irregularities – set a 2020 high of nearly 55,000 but that record was broken just before Christmas 2021 as the Omicron variant spread like wildfire in France. It has risen virtually without interruption since then.
New admissions for COVID-19 to intensive care units rose by 57 to 3,904 on Monday, their highest level since mid-May last year.
COVID protocols in schools eased amid Omicron surge
Meanwhile, French school children have been allowed to do self-tests instead of a PCR test if one of their classmates is infected with the coronavirus, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday.
“I have understood the worries of the parents, teachers and school headmasters”, Castex told France 2 television, after a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant led to chaos and paralysis in French schools over the last week.
“Today, 10,452 classes had to close. If we were to shut down classes as soon as there is one first case, having in mind the explosion of Omicron, all French schools would be closed in a matter of days”, Castex said.
From now on, three negative self-tests instead of a PCR test will be enough proof for a child to continue to attend school, Castex said.
He added that as an additional measure parents will not immediately be asked to pick up their children in case of a COVID-19 outbreak. Instead the schools will be allowed to wait until the end of the school day.