France extends mask mandate in schools, orders nightclubs to close
The government ordered the closure of nightclubs for four weeks starting this weekend, extended the mandatory use of face masks in schools, urged businesses to encourage teleworking and opened its vaccination program to children.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said after a meeting of the Defense and National Security Council that his government aims to "conserve and even amplify, strengthen" the vaccine shield that currently protects the population.
He reiterated his call for people to get vaccinated, accept a booster shot and heed the preventive measures. In France, those older than 65 can now get a booster shot without appointments.
According to the latest figures, 51 million French citizens have already been fully vaccinated.
In the country's schools, the government has tightened the sanitary protocol as in less than 24 hours the Education Ministry reported 6,261 new cases among children in the six to ten-year age group.
Accordingly, the wearing of face masks is again mandatory both indoors and outdoors at school, and outdoor activities are also restricted.
Castex said that fragile children will be able to receive their first vaccine dose from Dec. 15 and that the voluntary vaccination of all children is planned to start before the end of the year.
Also on Monday, Health Minister Olivier Veran said coronavirus is circulating faster in France than during the peak of the third wave. According to him, the fifth wave of the pandemic is progressing rapidly in France.
"More than 2,200 patients are currently in the intensive care units of our hospitals, severely ill with COVID-19," Veran said. Meanwhile, more than 12,000 patients are currently hospitalized.
In the past 24 hours, 192 deaths related to COVID-19 have been recorded in the country, according to the French Public Health Agency.
The fifth wave of the pandemic in France is still the Delta variant, but the government said it would pay close attention to the progress of the Omicron variant.
"It appears that this variant (Omicron) is much more contagious than the Delta variant, which itself is more contagious than the previous ones," Veran explained.
However, he added that there is no clinical evidence that the Omicron variant is more dangerous than the Delta variant. France has so far recorded 25 cases of the Omicron variant.