France said Wednesday that nightclubs would remain closed for a further three weeks after nearly 180,000 new Covid cases smashed the record for daily cases since the pandemic began.
The roughly 1,600 clubs were ordered shut on December 6 for four weeks as officials hoped to avoid a wave of infections prompted by holiday travel and festivities, fuelled by the highly infectious Omicron variant.
But on Tuesday, France’s health agency said 179,807 Covid cases had been reported over the previous 24 hours, far beyond the previous record of 100,000 reported on Saturday.
Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told France Inter radio that the decision to extend nightclubs closures was part of a series of new measures announced by the government this week in a bid to halt the Omicron spread.
“I can imagine the distress for these employees and entrepreneurs,” he said. Financial aid would be provided for the huge loss of holiday business, he added.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin this week encouraged local officials to limit public New Year’s Eve gatherings, in particular by requiring face masks outdoors and stepping up police patrols to enforce a ban on public alcohol consumption for the night.
Parliament will start debating Wednesday a new law to require a “vaccine pass” for entering restaurants, cinemas, museums and other public venues in a bid to spur further Covid jabs.
France already has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, at 90 percent of the eligible population.
Previously, the so-called “health pass” could also be obtained by providing a recent negative Covid test in the absence of vaccination.