Omicron has become the main coronavirus strain in France where the number of infections has surged in the last few days, the country’s public health agency has said.
“62.4 percent of tests showed a profile compatible with the Omicron variant” at the start of this week; compared to 15 percent the previous week, the agency said in its latest weekly survey published late Thursday.
The Omicron variant’s advance was expected because it is highly contagious; and has become dominant in other European countries including Britain and Portugal.
The strain has contributed to the current flare-up in cases; which topped 200,000 in the 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday.
French hospitals are now caring for 18,321 Covid-19 patients, including 1,922 new admissions between Wednesday and Thursday; with more than 3,500 people in intensive care.
Faced with the wave of infections; the government announced Monday new curbs to make people work from home; and imposed limits on the numbers attending public events.
The virus has claimed 123,552 lives in France since it was detected in China in late 2019.
In other news, the UK has become “one of the first in the world” to approve the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral after; it was found to help prevent the virus from multiplying in at-risk sufferers.
A potentially “life-saving” treatment called Paxlovid has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use among adults; who could be vulnerable to coronavirus due to age, weight or a prior chronic illness.
The decision comes after the regulator found the drug; – which can be taken at home – was safe and effective at reducing the risks of being admitted to hospital and death in people with mild; to moderate coronavirus infection and who are also at an increased risk of developing severe disease.
In a clinical trial in high-risk adults with symptomatic coronavirus infection; it was found to reduce the risk of being admitted to hospital and of death by almost 90%.