France sixth country with more than 10m COVID-19 infections

Pedestrians wear masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 as they wait at a crosswalk, near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Dec 14, 2021.
(THIBAULT CAMUS/AP)

PARIS / HAVANA / ROME – France became the sixth country in the world to report more than 10 million COVID-19 infections since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to official data published on Saturday.

French health authorities reported 219,126 new confirmed cases in a 24-hour period, the fourth day in a row that the country has recorded more than 200,000 cases.

READ MORE: Macron: 'Difficult' weeks ahead as France logs over 230,000 cases

France joined the United States, India, Brazil, Britain and Russia in having had more than 10 million cases.

Saturday's figure was the second highest after the 232,200 record on Friday when French President Emmanuel Macron warned the next few weeks would be difficult.

Some big cities, including Paris and Lyon, have re-imposed the wearing of masks in the street for everyone

In his New Year's Eve address, Macron did not mention a need for more restrictive health measures than those already announced, adding that the government should refrain from further limiting individual freedoms.

But the government said earlier on Saturday that from Monday wearing masks in public spaces would be mandatory for children as young as six versus 11 before.

And some big cities, including Paris and Lyon, have re-imposed wearing of masks in the street for everyone.

The seven-day moving average of new cases in France, which smoothes out daily reporting irregularities, rose to an all-time high of 157,651 – jumping almost five-fold in a month.

ALSO READ: Omicron dampens worldwide New Year celebrations

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased by 96 over 24 hours, standing at a more than seven-month peak of 18,811. But that figure is still almost half the record 33,497 reached in November 2020.

The COVID-19 death toll increased by 110 over 24 hours to 123,851, the 12th highest globally. The seven-day moving average of new daily deaths has reached 186, a high since May 14.

Cuba reports highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in almost two months

Cuba

Cuba reported the highest number of daily cases of COVID-19 in almost two months, registering 469 infections and one death over the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Public Health said on Saturday.

The agency said the accumulated number of infections rose to 966,473 and the death toll was 8,323, with 1,473 people being hospitalized, also the highest figure in almost two months.

The province of Pinar del Rio registered the most new cases, with 98, followed by Havana, with 80, and Camaguey, with 62.

Cuba is continuing its mass vaccination program, with 9.6 million of the country's 11.2 million people having been fully vaccinated, according to the latest official data.

In addition, just over two million people have received a booster dose of vaccine.

Italy

Italy reported 141,262 COVID-19 related cases on Saturday, following 144,243 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 111 from 155.

Italy has registered 137,513 deaths linked to COVID-19 since February 2020, and has reported 6.267 million cases to date.

About 1.08 million tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the last day, compared with 1.22 million the previous day, the health ministry said.

UK

The risk of hospitalization with the Omicron variant of coronavirus is about one-third that of the Delta variant, according to British analysis of more than a million cases of both types in recent weeks.

Britain is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, with record daily infections of 189,846 reported on Friday. 

While hospital admissions have started to rise, the government has said it believes the new variant is milder than the Delta variant.

The number of patients needing mechanical ventilation beds has also remained steady through December, unlike previous peaks in the pandemic.

The analysis was published by the UK Health Security Agency, after it worked alongside Cambridge University MRC Biostatistics unit to analyse 528,176 Omicron cases and 573,012 Delta cases.

It also found that vaccines can work well against Omicron.

"In this analysis, the risk of hospitalization is lower for Omicron cases with symptomatic or asymptomatic infection after 2 and 3 doses of vaccine, with an 81 percent … reduction in the risk of hospitalization after 3 doses compared to unvaccinated Omicron cases," the UKHSA said.

Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at UKHSA, said the analysis was in keeping with other encouraging signs on Omicron but said the health service could still struggle with such high transmission rates.

"It remains too early to draw any definitive conclusions on hospital severity, and the increased transmissibility of Omicron and the rising cases in the over 60s population in England means it remains highly likely that there will be significant pressure on the NHS in coming weeks," she said.