Evening Update Friday 17 December 2021

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced several new Covid-19 measures. Speaking after a Health Defence Council meeting earlier this evening he said that the government believes that the Omicron variant will spread very quickly, becoming dominant from the beginning of 2022. He said that several hundred cases had already been identified in France and that new measures had to be taken.

Strict compliance with barrier measures must be observed and also common sense must be used and the fewer people there are at a gathering, the less risks we take. He said that people should avoid large parties and large gatherings and announced that for New Year's Eve prefects will ban unorganised gatherings and the consumption of alcohol on public roads and will invite municipalities to ban gatherings on public roads, particularly concerts and fireworks.

He asked everyone to test themselves in the days leading up to the holidays.

Moving on to vaccinations, the Prime Minister said that as from January 3, it will be possible to have a booster dose four months after the last injection.

He announced plans to transform the "health pass" into a "vaccination pass", meaning that only vaccination will be a valid way of getting a pass and testing would no longer be available to obtain a pass. This measure will be debated in parliament.

He said that overtime pay for hospital workers will be doubled as from this coming Monday.

The Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur Regional Health Agency has said that it's preparing to transfer some Covid-19 patients in intensive care to other regions of France. The move is being made to relieve pressure on hospital services and may see about five to ten patients being transferred to hospitals in other regions this weekend.

The SNCF has said that it expects TGV tains to operate normally this weekend, including in the south-east where there had been a threat of industrial action. However, services are disrupted today, Friday, with about one in two TGV's running in the south-east.

The European Commission has announced plans to open an investigation into French plans to stop domestic airline flights if there is a train journey on the same route lasting less than two and a half hours. The plan is a major element of the French government's measures against climate change but is opposed by airlines.

The French Secretary of State for European Affairs has said that France will ask the European Commission to start a dispute resolution procedure regarding the issue of post-Brexit fishing licences by the UK. Clement Beaune was speaking to French media after a meeting between President Macron and fishermen at the Elysees Palace.

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