(Bloomberg) -- French Covid-19 infections hit a record as the spread of the more easily transmissible omicron variant gathered pace across much of Europe.
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New daily cases totaled 91,608 in France on Thursday, public health office data show. That surpassed the previous high of almost 87,000 from November of last year.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said earlier this week that the omicron strain will become dominant in France during the period between Christmas and New Year's, and that infections will likely reach 100,000 a day by the end of December. On Thursday, he said the threshold will probably be crossed closer to Dec. 25 than Dec. 31, BFM TV reported.
French authorities are watching trends in the U.K., which has 10 to 14 days lead time in terms of progression of omicron over France, Veran said this week.
Britain reported more than 100,000 cases for a second straight day on Thursday. Before this month, the U.K. had never registered more than 70,000 cases in a day. Italy on Thursday also reported a record high number of cases.
Early studies out of South Africa, Scotland and England show the highly mutated omicron variant appears less likely to land patients in the hospital than previous strains. The findings raise hopes there will be fewer cases of severe disease, yet omicron's greater infectiousness means it could still severely strain health services.
France's hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions have been rising, but not as quickly as cases, and remain well below previous pandemic peaks.
(Update with official figures in second paragraph)
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