Christmas and the end of the year were once again celebrated in an unusual atmosphere in France. The outbreak of coronavirus, especially the Omicron variant, has disrupted festivities, causing great concern among the population.
In Paris, people queue in long lines in front of pharmacies waiting for a Covid-19 test so that they can spend the holidays with their family or friends, Xinhua news agency reported.
Estelle, a journalist in her thirties, has asked her friends to take Covid-19 tests in order to join the Saint Sylvester celebrations that she hosts each year at her home.
“I have asked my friends to bring the proof of a negative test. But despite the precautions, I feel that the celebrations won’t be the same as before (Covid-19). The atmosphere won’t be as relaxed with the Omicron variant that is circulating,” she said, adding that some friends have preferred staying at their home instead.
This fear of catching the virus has also constrained Sebastien, a French expat living in Africa, who has cancelled all his appointments with his friends.
“I return to France once per year to celebrate Christmas and Saint Sylvester with family but it is also an occasion to see each of my friends according to their availability. Sadly that won’t be possible this year. I prefer being careful and calling them just on the phone,” Sebastien told Xinhua.
France has reported record numbers of coronavirus infections in the last few days. A total of 104,611 new cases were reported on December 25, and 206,243 on December 30.
Omicron has become the main coronavirus strain in France. “62.4 per cent of screened tests (at the start of the week) show a compatible profile with the Omicron variant,” said the last weekly survey by the French Public Health published on Thursday.
Rising infections have also hit restaurants hard, forcing some to close this year. Pascal Boulanger, the owner of bars and restaurants in Mont-de-Marsan, southern France, is one of these restaurateurs.
“It is a choice a little bit imposed. From the moment where conditions are not reunited to do something that looks like a New Year Eve, there isn’t any interest to organise something,” he explained to France Bleu Radio.
Those who decided to open, such as Bastien d’Andre, a restaurateur in the same city, noted that the “infatuation is not as strong and there are few reservations” this year.
Although the government has decided not to impose a curfew for New Year’s Eve, it has increased additional restrictive measures in response to the outbreak of the Omicron variant. In Paris, for example, the police department announced the return of the obligation to wear a mask outdoors in all streets effective from December 31.
The French government is counting on its vaccine strategy to curb the new variant. And recent studies on the efficiency of the Pfizer and Modern vaccines against the severe forms of the Omicron variant are the foundation of that hope.
France has accelerated its vaccination campaign since the appearance of the new variant, and announced recently a draft law bill to transform the health pass to a vaccine pass, to oblige the non-vaccinated to go for it.