France reports new Covid case record as hospital patient numbers top 30,000

One in ten people have caught Covid in France since the start of the new year - case numbers remain at a record high with infection rates greater than in any other European nation.

People queue outside a pharmacy in western France.
People queue outside a pharmacy in western France. The country is once again facing record numbers of Covid cases. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

France posted 501,635 new cases of coronavirus for the past 24 hours on Tuesday, a new daily record and the first time the headline number has surpassed half a million.

The country is currently recording the highest daily infection rates of any major European nation, with an average of more than 360,000 over the past week.

More than 30,000 people are in hospital with coronavirus across France in the highest such tally since November 2020, official figures showed.

But only a little more than 3,700 were in intensive care, less than during previous periods of high infection.

On Tuesday morning, the French Education Minister told BFMTV that 4 percent of French classrooms were closed due to Covid-19. 

The highly contagious Omicron variant that is fuelling the latest wave is believed to be less dangerous than the previous dominant strain Delta. One in ten French people have tested positive for Covid since the beginning of 2022. 

Some 364 people died of the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths from Covid in France to 129,489.

The latest figures came after new Covid rules came into force in France on Monday, with the health pass transformed into a vaccine pass.

READ MORE What changes on Monday as France introduces the vaccine pass?

People are now required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter bars, restaurants, trains and planes.

A negative coronavirus test will no longer be enough to access leisure activities, some work events and long-distance travel.

More than 77 percent of France’s population has received two shots of an anti-Covid vaccine.

How France emerges from the current wave is seen as crucial in April presidential elections, in which President Emmanuel Macron is widely expected to run although he has yet to declare his candidacy.

Despite the high caseload, Prime Minister Jean Castex last week announced a timetable for lifting Covid restrictions in France from February 2.

Member comments

  1. Is it anything to do with the numbers of people getting tested? Are any statistics available for this? I wonder whether the fact is so easy (and free for most people) to be tested, that this is why there is such a high number. Do French people home-test so much? I wonder if countries like the UK might use home tests more, which then might not get reported when positive. Just a thought.

    1. I think this is very likely the case. Certainly the U.K. uses more home tests which they don’t report. I believe they no longer have to have a PCR test if they have a LFT that shows positive.

  2. So, a fatality rate of less than 0.1%. My blood pressure pills have a higher fatality rate than that.

  3. Case numbers are now irrelevant. It is ICU and death numbers that are important. Most important is whether those people have comorbidities and what they are. Are people dying WITH Covid rather than FROM Covid. Just like the elderly and sick are hospitalised and die of influenza every winter. We need to stop this constant fear mongering but it’s elections so Macron will want to keep that running high.

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EXPLAINED: Why Covid cases are rising again in France

France on Monday removed many of its remaining Covid rules, but even before that date case numbers were rising. So why is this happening? And is it something that we need to be worried about?

EXPLAINED: Why Covid cases are rising again in France

“Infections will rise again for 10 to 15 days,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told Franceinfo on Wednesday, two days after the country had done away with the vaccine pass and lifted mask rules in most areas.

“What the modelling of the Institut Pasteur tells us is that it will indeed go up until the end of March, we risk reaching 120,000 to 150,000 infections per day, and then we can expect a decrease,” he went on.

But he insisted the government had made the “right decision” in choosing to end most restrictions earlier than anticipated and in spite of an apparent epidemic rebound, saying “there is no risk of saturation of hospitals“.

So what’s happening?


Daily Covid numbers in France reached record highs in January, when an average of more than 366,000 new cases a day were recorded.

Current figures are well below that, but still high. On Tuesday, France reported more than 116,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours – a marked rise on the figure of 93,050 recorded the same day a week previously, and breaking the 100,000 barrier for the first time since mid-February.

The daily average figure – which irons out statistical quirks such as delayed reporting at weekends – is 65,143, a 25 percent increase on the previous week.


“More than 50 percent” of new cases are due to the sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2, which is “more transmissible” but less severe, the Conseil scientifique said. 


The number of people being hospitalised with the virus has started ticking up again, after falling from a peak of 2,900 per day in early February. On March 13th, there were 973 new patients in hospital.

“High vaccination rates have made it possible to limit the hospital impact of these infections,” the Conseil said.

But about 4 million adult people remain unvaccinated and almost 5 million have not had a booster dose.

“The number of hospitalisations will increase temporarily in the coming weeks,” it added.

Admissions to intensive care and death rates both continue to decline, but usually any effect on these figures is not felt until at least two weeks after case numbers begin to rise.

European trend

France is not the only country that is seeing an uptick in cases, Germany, Austria, the UK, Belgium and Italy have all reported rises in recent days.

School holidays

Since the relaxation of the French rules only happened on Monday, it is clearly not the source of the increase.

Rather, regional variations in the spread of the virus indicates that schools reopening after the winter holidays has been a key driver of the latest rise in infections.

Schools in France are divided into three zones and take their February holiday at different times.

Guillaume Rozier, founder of the CovidTracker website, told AFP at the weekend. “The rise in cases is most apparent in northern France and along the Mediterranean coast, roughly corresponding to the areas where children returned to school earliest (on February 21st).”

Upticks in Covid figures have been spotted, too, in zones A and C, which returned to class later.


“The current cold climate remains an element that favours viral transmission. This should improve in the coming weeks with the arrival of the good weather,” says the Conseil scientifique.

As the weather improves and temperatures rise, socialising and activities tend to move outdoors, where the transmission risk is lower. This follows the pattern also seen in 2020 and 2021 when the virus receded in the summer, before returning in autumn.

Not a wave

“This rebound is not a wave,” says Véran. However he added: “The end of the obligation does not mean the end of vigilance. I invite French women and men to wear the mask in all circumstances which may expose them or those around them to the risk of infection.”

Institut Pasteur forecasts published on March 10th suggest that “in all the scenarios explored, the peak of cases [in March] remains much lower than the peak in January”. 

Experts are also confident that the combination of vaccinations and immunity because of previous infection will keep serious cases to a minimum.