France has recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus infections in a single day for the first time since the pandemic began.
Covid cases in hospital have also doubled over the past month, as the fast-spreading Omicron variant complicates the government’s efforts to stave off a new lockdown.
More than one person in 100 in the Paris region has tested positive in the past week, according to the regional health service.
Most new infections are linked to Omicron, which government experts predict will be dominant in France in the coming days.
Meanwhile, a surge in Delta variant infections in recent months is pushing up hospital admissions.
More than 1,000 people in France with the virus died over the past week, bringing the overall death toll to more than 122,000.
The government is holding emergency meetings on Monday to discuss the next steps. Some scientists and educators have urged the return to schools after the Christmas break to be delayed, or for a curfew to be reimposed.
But the education minister says schools should open as usual on January 3, and other government officials are working to avoid measures that would hammer the economic recovery.
Instead, the government is hoping that stepped-up vaccinations will be enough.
The government is pushing a draft law that would require vaccination to enter all restaurants and many public venues, instead of the current health pass system which allows people to produce a negative test or proof of recovery if they are not vaccinated.
In neighbouring Belgium, the government imposed new measures starting on Sunday that ordered cultural venues including cinemas and concert halls to close.
Some venues defied the ban, and thousands of performers, event organisers and others demonstrated in Brussels against the decision, carrying signs that said “The show must go on” or “No culture no future”.
They accuse the Belgian government of double standards because it allowed Christmas markets, with their boisterous crowds and mulled wine drinking, to stay open, along with restaurants and bars.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the Dutch government has gone further than most European countries and shut down all non-essential shops, restaurants and bars and extended the school holidays in a partial new lockdown.