France reported a record high of 179,807 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday, one of the highest one-day tallies worldwide since the start of the pandemic.
On Monday, the government announced new measures to curb infections, including limits on the size of big gatherings, a ban on eating and drinking in transport systems and the mandatory wearing of masks again outdoors.
Despite the jump in new cases, the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 remained well below record levels, with Covid-19 patients in intensive care up by 83 to 3,416 on Tuesday, well below the highs of more than 7,000 in early April 2020.
France also announced 290 new Covid deaths, the highest one-day toll since early May but well below death tallies seen late last year.
About 77 per cent of the population is now fully vaccinated, which has sharply reduced the number of hospitalisations and deaths.
Meanwhile, Australia recorded another record surge in Covid-19 infections on Tuesday as an outbreak of the highly infectious Omicron variant disrupted reopening of the economy.
The country reported 11,264 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous day, according to a Reuters calculation of state figures, once again surpassing its peak of a day earlier.
There were five Covid-19 deaths reported, taking the total fatalities to just over 2,200 since the start of the pandemic. Authorities did not specify whether any of the new deaths were related to the Omicron variant.
The Omicron variant, which medical experts say is more transmissible but less virulent than previous strains, began to spread in Australia just as the country got underway with plans to reopen for good after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns.
With the resumption of rising case numbers – despite a vaccination rate of more than 90 per cent for Australians aged over 16 – the country’s state leaders have brought back some containment measures like mandatory mask-wearing and QR code check-ins at public venues.
The rising case numbers have also led to mandatory self-isolation for thousands of workers in the hospitality, entertainment and airline sectors .
In Turkey, daily new Covid cases surged 30 per cent on Monday to 26,099, health ministry data showed, the highest percentage rise this year, as the health minister warned about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
Turkey’s daily case levels have been below or about 20,000 in December, down from about 30,000 in October. The number of deaths due to coronavirus fell to 157 on Monday from 173 a day earlier.
"The Omicron variant is spreading more quickly than the other variants," health minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter late on Monday. "You must be careful and get your booster shot done."
Malaysia, meanwhile, has lifted a travel ban on eight southern African countries that had first reported the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, citing the greater spread of the variant worldwide, its health minister said on Tuesday.
The eight countries, which include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, will remain on a list of nations deemed as high-risk, with travellers from those nations subject to additional restrictions upon arrival, minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters.
Malaysia has also banned mass celebrations for the New Year, while anyone attending a private gathering will have to test negative for coronavirus beforehand.
Confirmed cases in Argentina almost doubled on Monday from Friday to 20,263 new infections, the highest daily tally in almost 6 months.
In Brazil, president Jair Bolsonaro will not vaccinate his 11-year-old daughter against Covid-19, he said. – Agencies