France is one of several European countries reporting record numbers of coronavirus infections driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, as the World Health Organization warns that more than half of the population in its European region could be infected by the new variant within the next two months.
In neighbouring Italy, health authorities also reported a record number of new cases on Tuesday, more than double the figure announced the day before.
Turkey is another country where cases are growing rapidly, with more than 74,000 new infections reported yesterday.
Here’s a look at the top COVID-19 stories in Europe.
‘We have never observed such figures’
More than 360,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24-hours have put France at the top of an unenviable list.
According to the Johns Hopkins University data, France is now the second country in the world with the most daily confirmed new cases, just after the United States.
The French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, said it was “a tidal wave of infections”.
“We have never observed such figures since the beginning of the health crisis. It’s a tidal wave. The term is equal to the number of contaminations, 22,000 patients hospitalised for COVID-19, 3,900 in ICU,” Véran revealed.
Meanwhile, protesters rally in Paris and Lyon on Wednesday to demand more resources for French hospitals, a pay rise, and better working conditions, as part of a day of national protests.
Italian health officials urge people to get the jab
In neighbouring Italy, health officials are urging people to get the vaccine, as the country also reported a record number of new cases — over 220,000 —, more than double the figure announced the day before.
Although most infections are less serious than those caused by other variants, unvaccinated people are still highly vulnerable.
At the Cremona hospital in the north of the country, medical staff are calling for people to get vaccinated, to guarantee “fewer hospital admissions”.
“The vaccine is the active tool in our possession that guarantees the least damage to health for those infected with the virus. It also guarantees fewer hospital admissions and even fewer admissions to intensive care units,” explained Enrico Storti, director of the Intensive Care Unit at the Cremona Hospital.
All of the beds in the Intensive Care Unit at the Cremona hospital are occupied by patients who are severely ill with COVID-19, with 70% of them unvaccinated.
Turkey’s health minister warns Omicron will be dominant
Meanwhile, Turkey is just another country joining France and Italy in the rapid growth of cases, with the Middle Eastern country reporting 74,226 new infections on Tuesday.
In late December, the number of new cases was only about 20,000.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has warned Omicron will be dominant within the next few weeks.
This level of infection was last seen at the end of April 2021, when Turkey’s strictest lockdown was announced.
Turkey has so far administered 137 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — including nearly 19 million booster shots. Around 60% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, and 83,74% have received two doses.
The total death toll from the virus is 83,980, according to official statistics.
The rapid growth in new cases due to the Omicron variant is a story that most of Europe is currently experiencing, with the ability to cope resting on vaccine availability and take up.