Daily virus infections in France cross 100,000 barrier for 1st time

People line up to get a nasal swap at a mobile COVID-19 testing site on Christmas Eve at the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, Dec 24, 2021. (MICHEL EULER / AP)

SANTO DOMINGO / PARIS / NAIROBI /ROME – France reported a record high of 104,611 COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking the 100,000 threshold for the first time since the pandemic began as the Omicron variant continued its rapid spread.

The country's infections stood at 9,088,371, the third highest in the world after the US and the UK, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

With an additional 84 COVID-19 deaths, the national virus-related death toll has reached 122,546. 

The French Health Ministry said that 52,712,462 people have received at least one vaccine dose, accounting for about 78.2 percent of the whole population.

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On Thursday, the French Scientific Council advised the French government on the ongoing rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

"Its progression is extremely rapid, especially among the 20-29 years olds. In January, we are expecting hundreds of thousands of new cases a day," said Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist and member of the scientific council.

French President Emmanuel Macron will hold on Monday a meeting of the Health Defence Council. An urgent meeting of the Council of Ministers is expected to adopt a draft bill to transform the current health pass to a vaccination pass. In order to get the new pass, French citizens must be vaccinated.  

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has identified its first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the health ministry of the Caribbean country said on Saturday.

In a statement on Twitter, the ministry said Omicron had been identified in a person with mild symptoms who had arrived in the country from South Africa.

The ministry also said it had later been informed by Chilean authorities that a person who traveled to Chile from the Dominican Republic had tested positive for Omicron.

Other potential cases of Omicron are under investigation, the ministry added.

Kenya

Kenya will offer COVID-19 booster shots to individuals six months after their initial shots, the health ministry said in a document published on Saturday, a day after the country logged its highest rate of positive COVID-19 tests.

Kenya last month said it would demand proof of vaccination to access public spaces and transport from Dec 21. The move met with a combination of bemusement, dismissal and occasional spot enforcement, given the country's low vaccination rate. By Friday just over 14 percent of Kenyan adults had been fully vaccinated.

A court has since halted the proof of vaccination measure amid uncertainty over who would police it and what to do about people unable to access vaccines.

The East African country confirmed the presence of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country almost two weeks ago and on Friday registered nearly 33 percent positive cases from a little more than 9,000 COVID-19 tests.

The ministry statement on Friday also said that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to children over 15 years old.

Italy

Italy reported a third successive record tally of COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with new infections hitting 54,762 against 50,599 a day earlier, the health ministry said.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose to 144 from 141 on Friday.

Italy has registered 136,530 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world.

It has reported 5.57 million cases to date.

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Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 8,892 on Saturday, up from 8,812 on Friday.

There were 106 new admissions to intensive care units, against 102 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 1,071 from a previous 1,038.

Some 969,752 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 929,775 the health ministry said.