France reported more than 200,000 COVID-19 infections for the second straight day, according to data released Thursday by public health authorities. 

The data showed that 206,243 cases were registered in the past 24 hours. There were 208,099 infections recorded the previous day, which set a new record for the most detected in a single day in a European country.

The new average of daily cases over the last seven days has risen to approximately 120,000.

Authorities say the unprecedented number of daily cases is due to the exceptional amount of testing carried out in the runup to Christmas festivities and New Year’s celebrations.

Besides pharmacies and laboratories, France has recently approved the sale of antigen auto-tests at supermarkets, making it easier for people to detect whether they are positive for COVID-19 before attending family gatherings or visiting crowded public places.

According to the Health Minister Olivier Veran, an estimated 10% of the French population has been in contact recently with a person infected with the virus.

As the virus is circulating strongly, several prefectures and big cities including Paris, Lyon and the Pyrenees have made it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors on public roads and in crowded areas from Dec. 31. The police headquarters in Paris has also issued rules for New Year’s Eve for bars and restaurants to close at 2 a.m. and prohibiting gatherings on public roads involving alcohol consumption and dancing. The annual fireworks display over the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris has also been cancelled.

Unlike last year, there are otherwise no restrictions in terms of curfews or on the number of people attending private gatherings for year-end celebrations.

The government has accelerated its vaccine campaign and appealed to all adults 18 and older to get the third booster shot. More than 24 million booster doses have been administered so far, and 64,000 minors aged between 5 and 11 have received their first COVID-19 shot since the campaign began on Dec. 22.

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