French Health Minister Olivier Véran had already warned that the country was about to break another Covid-19 case record on Tuesday by suggesting the country could report nearly 300,000 new infections within a 24-hour period.
In the end some 271, 686 cases were reported by health authorities.
France broke its record for the most number of new Covid cases recorded in 24 hours last week, registering 232,200 infections on Friday. This figure was mostly driven by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant but also by increased testing in the run up to New Year’s Eve.
Veran also reported that 64 children were in hospital in France with severe forms of Covid-19 – the highest number since the star of the pandemic.
The centrist party of French President Emmanuel Macron had been left red-faced after opposition parties joined forces to hold up a bill tightening measures against Covid-19.
Prime Minister Jean Castex condemned opposition MPs, telling them: “the virus is galloping and you are pulling the hand break”.
The National Assembly was debating the implementation of a vaccine pass that will require a full course of vaccination to attend events, eat out or travel by inter-city train, rather than a recent negative test or proof of recovery.
But when the government asked the chamber late Monday to continue debating the legislation after midnight, to ensure it could be adopted by the end of the week, the right-wing Republicans (LR) teamed up with the far-right and far-left to stop the debate.
In an embarrassment for Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party that controls parliament, not enough of its lawmakers were still present in the chamber when the vote by a show of hands was taken on continuing the debate.
French media said the surprise move by the LR — which has backed the main thrust of the legislation — pointed to rising political tensions ahead of April 2022 presidential elections, which Macron appears the favourite, but is not certain, to win.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal lashed out at a “procedural coup” by opposition lawmakers, saying they wanted to “derail the calendar” for the vaccine pass for purely political reasons.
“We will do everything to stick to the calendar as has been set out,” he told France Inter radio. The government wants the new legislation to be implemented from January 15.
The debate was due to resume late Tuesday, parliamentary sources said, with 500 amendments filed by the opposition to be discussed and lawmakers facing another late night.