PARIS — France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new COVID-19 measures in efforts to curb the spread of the virus, yet stopped short of imposing strict restrictions ahead of New Year’s Eve.

Starting from next week, big events will be limited to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors. People will be requested to sit down during concerts and customers won’t be allowed to stand up in bars, Castex detailed.

Eating and drinking will be banned in cinemas, theatres, sport facilities and public transports, including on long-distance lines. Working from home will be mandatory at least three days per week for employees whose job makes it possible, he added.

Castex said that schools will open as scheduled on Jan. 3 and political rallies won’t be concerned by the new rules for democratic reasons ahead of April’s presidential election.

The measures come after France recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day for the first time in the pandemic.

Castex stressed that hospitals’ intensive care units are not saturated due to over 90% of France’s adults being fully vaccinated — in sharp contrast with the situation last year.


— Omicron spreads global gloom over New Year’s celebrations

— Delta flight to Shanghai turned back because of COVID rules.

— Variant disrupts holiday travel but not shopping

— France sees over 100,000 daily infections for the first time

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at


LONDON — British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Monday no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced in England before the new year, but urged people to stay cautious and celebrate outside if possible.

COVID-19 data has been patchy over the Christmas holiday, but the latest official figures showed 98,515 new infections were recorded in England on Monday and 143 people died with the virus. The National Health Service in England reported that there were 1,281 coronavirus hospital admissions on Christmas Day, up more than 70% compared to the previous week.

The four parts of the U.K. have taken different approaches to coronavirus restrictions as the omicron variant spread rapidly in the country. While nightclubs were ordered closed and limits on gatherings were imposed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, officials have resisted tightening restrictions in England.

Javid said about 90% of cases across England were the omicron variant.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday pledged the full support of the federal government to states facing surges in COVID-19 cases from the more-transmissible omicron variant and a run on at-home tests.

Joining a regular meeting between his coronavirus response team and the National Governors Association, Biden said, “My message is: if you need something, say something, and we are going to have your back any way we can.”

Biden acknowledged long lines and chaotic scenes as Americans sought out testing amid the case surge and as they looked to safely gather with family and friends over the holiday.

He referenced his administration’s plan to make 500 million rapid tests available to Americans beginning next month through an as-yet-to-be-developed website.

A White House official said the new tests would come from new manufacturing capacity and wouldn’t interfere with existing supply chains.

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said Monday that the U.S. should “seriously” consider a vaccination mandate for domestic travel.

Speaking to MSNBC, Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief science adviser on the COVID-19 response, said “When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated.”

The U.S. currently mandates that most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but has not instituted one for domestic travel.

The administration has at times considered a domestic vaccination requirement, or one requiring either vaccination or proof of negative test, but two officials said Biden’s science advisers have yet to formally make the recommendation to the president. The officials noted they have not been eager to mandate vaccination for domestic air travel because they expected it to immediately face legal challenges, mitigating its potential effectiveness as a tool to drive up vaccinations.

Biden’s employer vaccination requirements have been mired in legal wrangling, with the Supreme Court set to hear arguments in early January in cases seeking to overturn them.

ATHENS — In Greece, authorities announced additional restrictions after the highest number of daily confirmed infections, at 9,284, was announced since the start of the pandemic.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris announced that starting Jan. 3: the mandatory use of high-protection or double masks will be imposed at supermarkets and on public transport, entertainment venues will close at midnight, capacity will be cut to 10% at soccer stadiums, remote work and schedule changes will be expanded at the public sector and nursing home visits will only be permitted for people carrying a negative PCR test result.

“The omicron variant is now apparent across the country, especially in greater Athens where there has been a considerable rise in cases,” Plevris said.

He added that the new restrictions would take effect after the New Year due to concerns that if were imposed earlier, they would lead to an increase in private gatherings.

HELSINKI — Denmark has recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with 16,164 new infection cases in the past 24 hours.

The figure released by Danish health authorities on Monday broke the previous daily record set in the Scandinavian country only on Sunday when 14,844 new infections were documented.

Seven people infected with COVID-19 died in the past 24 hours. That put the total death toll in Denmark at 3,217, officials said.

The number of coronavirus infections in Denmark started to rise sharply in early December but by last week the pace seemed to have leveled off. But health officials said the number of infections started rising dramatically again over the past few days.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Health officials in Ivory Coast say the West African country has seen a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases

Authorities recorded a 26.5% positivity rate the day after Christmas. A statement from the Ivorian Ministry of Health said that figure had been 18.4% just the day before.

The new figures come at a time when many Ivorians travel from the major cities back to rural areas to see family over the holidays. As of last week, 5.7% of Ivorians were fully vaccinated. Ivory Coast has confirmed 64,429 cases of COVID-19, including 707 deaths since the pandemic began.

NEW YORK — New York City’s sweeping mandate requiring nearly all private-sector businesses to ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace has taken effect amid a spike in coronavirus infections.

Workers at roughly 184,000 businesses were required to show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday. Businesses that don’t comply could face fines starting at $1,000, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has said imposing penalties will be a last resort.

Employers have to verify and keep a record of each worker’s proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Workers who have only received one shot will have to get a second one within 45 days. Companies must display a sign affirming they are complying with the rule “in a conspicuous location,” under the city’s mandate.

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