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French PM says Omicron to be 'dominant' in the country from start of 2022

French PM says Omicron to be 'dominant' in the country from start of 2022

People wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 cross the Trocadero Plaza in Paris, on Dec 15, 2021. (Photo: AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS: French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Friday (Dec 17) likened the spread of the Omicron variant in Europe to "lightning", adding that it would be the dominant strain in France from the start of 2022.

Castex added that while much remains unknown about the variant "it does not seem to be more dangerous than the Delta variant and the data available to us indicate that complete vaccination coverage with the booster dose protects well against severe forms of the disease".

Nearly 3,000 people are in intensive care with COVID-19 in France according to the latest figures.

Meanwhile, eligibility for booster jabs will be reduced from five months from the date of the second vaccination to four, Castex added.

The prime minister said that big public parties and fireworks would be banned on New Year's Eve and recommended that people - even if vaccinated - test themselves before attending year-end parties.

To increase pressure on people to get vaccinated, the government will present a Bill early next year to change the French health pass into a vaccination pass.

That means people will have to be vaccinated to enter restaurants or use long-distance public transport.

Under current rules, a recent negative test can serve as a health pass even without vaccination.

"While we have given time, a lot of time for those French people who were hesitant and had doubts, in January we will strengthen the incentive for vaccination, because it is not acceptable that the refusal of a few million French people to be vaccinated, puts the life of an entire country at risk," he said.

The Omicron variant is now suspected to be responsible for up to 10 per cent of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in France and is the main reason behind plans for stricter health requirements for entering some venues, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday.

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant was also behind restrictions being imposed on travel from Britain to France from Saturday, said the prime minister.

Source: Agencies/ga

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