France to Send Workers Home Three Days a Week as Covid Cases Surge
(Bloomberg) -- France will force its citizens to work from home for most of next month to contain the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
Workers that have the option to stay away from the office must do so a minimum of three days and if possible four days a week to help reduce social contacts, Prime Minister Jean Castex said Monday.
He announced the measures -- which are due to enter into force on Jan. 3 for three weeks -- after a special cabinet meeting convened by President Emmanuel Macron amid skyrocketing coronavirus infections in the country.
“In France and in Europe, the health situation is, as you know, extremely tense,” Castex told reporters. The government refrained from ordering a curfew for New Year’s Eve or pushing back the return to school after the holidays.
France reported a daily record of more than 100,000 new cases on Saturday fueled by omicron’s rapid spread, mirroring significant infection rates in European countries including the U.K. and Italy. Macron, who is widely expected to seek a second term in April’s presidential election, has vowed to contain the virus while shielding the economy from another full lockdown.
More than 16,000 people are currently hospitalized for Covid in France, including some 3,300 in intensive care -- above the crisis threshold of 3,000 set by health officials.
Additional measures that will apply for three weeks from Jan. 3:
- Bars and restaurants will only be allowed to serve seated clients
- Food and drinks will be banned in cinemas and theaters
- Large gatherings will be limited to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors -- but with the first round of the presidential election less than four months away, these limits won’t apply to political meetings.
Castex said that starting Tuesday, the French will be able to get a vaccine booster shot three months after their last inoculation, down from the previous four-month wait.
The government is also proposing to restrict access to bars, restaurants and cultural venues to people who are fully vaccinated. Lawmakers are due to discuss those measures in the coming days, with the goal to replace the current rules in mid-January.
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