PARIS: France will order companies to impose at least three days of teleworking per week on employees to the extent possible to stem a fifth wave of Covid infections, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday.
The new measure, which will be in place for at least three weeks, is one of many announced after a cabinet crisis meeting on the new Omicron variant, which again threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
The meeting came after France reported more than 100,000 daily cases of Covid on Saturday, a record since the pandemic began almost two years ago, with many experts warning the number to rise rapidly in the coming weeks .
“It all looks like a never-ending movie … but today thanks to our collective mobilization, we are one of the most vaccinated countries in the world,” he said at a press conference in Paris.
The mainstay of France’s fight against Covid would remain a push for widespread vaccination, he said, which could allow the government to avoid more restrictive measures like curfews or business closures that could hit the economy.
Castex said the country’s “health pass” for access to restaurants, cinemas and more would now only be available to fully vaccinated people – a recent negative Covid test for the unvaccinated will no longer be valid.
He also said standing would be banned in cafes and bars, where only table seating will be allowed, for three weeks – despite having suspended the curfew for the New Year’s festivities.
Several French media had suggested that such a decision was under consideration.
Currently, 78 percent of the country has had at least one injection, a figure the government says represents 90 percent of those eligible – currently all over the age of five.
Castex also reiterated a call for people to receive booster injections, which will now be available just three months after receiving the initial injections.
The average number of daily Covid deaths in hospitals has increased to 162 each day, with the death toll in France now at 122,642 since the start of the pandemic.
And the new measures came when Environment Minister Barbara Pompili announced on Twitter that she had tested positive for Covid after showing symptoms and was self-isolating.
Face masks, already required in most indoor public spaces, may soon be mandatory outdoors on city streets as well, Castex said.
And capacity limits will be reimposed for concerts, sports matches and other events to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 outdoors – with no standing areas allowed.
Eating or drinking is prohibited in theaters, gyms, cinemas or public transport, including long-distance train travel, he added.
But the government has delayed the postponement of the return to class of students until January 3 after the holidays, a measure demanded by about fifty doctors and health workers in an open letter published this weekend.
And in a bid to avoid labor shortages in essential sectors such as education and health care as the number of cases increases, Castex said the government will soon reduce the number of working days. quarantine required for fully vaccinated people who are exposed to infected people. – AFP