The World Health Organization has warned that a 'tsunami' of Omicron and Delta COVID-19 cases will pile pressure on health systems is coming true as France and the United States reported record high infections.
The two western nations are struggling with rising number of infections and putting the healthcare infrastructure in both countries under massive pressure.
New cases of COVID-19 in America soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
New cases per day have more than doubled over the past two weeks, eclipsing the old mark of 250,000, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The fast-spreading mutant version of the virus has forced communities to scale back or call off their festivities just weeks after it seemed as if Americans were about to enjoy an almost normal holiday season.
Thousands of flights have been cancelled amid staffing shortages blamed on the virus.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, said on Wednesday that there is no need to cancel small home gatherings among vaccinated and boosted family and friends.
But "if your plans are to go to a 40- to 50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year, I would strongly recommend that this year we not do that,” he said.
At present, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans in hospitals owing to COVID-19 is around 60,000, or about half the figure seen in January.
This is because of the vaccine protection and the possibility that Omicron is not making people as sick as previous versions.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 deaths in the US have risen over the past two weeks and the average stands at 1,200 per day to around 1,500.
The European nation set a new national record for COVID-19 on Wednesday with 208,000 new infections recorded over 24 hour, causing alarm in the government
According to figures given by Health Minister Olivier Veran to a parliamentary hearing, the number of cases have jumped by 15 percent since Tuesday when a record 179,807 new infections were reported, and had doubled since Saturday.
"I wouldn't call Omicron a wave anymore... I would call it a tidal wave," Veran said, referring to the new variant which is replacing the Delta variant as the dominant strain in France.
Some 10 percent of the French population had been in contact with somebody who is infected with the virus, Veran said, adding that the figures "make your head spin."
Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced several measures to try to contain the epidemic, but shied away from mass closures or lockdowns.
Some of the new restrictions are a ban on eating on high-speed trains and standing up in cafes and bars. Moreover, the country's around 1,600 nightclubs would remain closed for a further three weeks after they were ordered shut on 6 December.
According to official figures, daily hospital admissions in France are around 1,000 a day, still well below the peak of 3,500 during the first wave in April 2020 or nearly 3,000 in the second wave in November last year.
The rise in cases is forcing many hospitals, particularly those in the hotspots of France and the southern Mediterranean coast, to cancel non-essential operations.
WHO has reported that new COVID-19 cases worldwide increased 11 percent last week from the week before, with nearly 4.99 million recorded between 20-26 December. But the United Nations health agency also noted a decline in cases in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected just over a month ago.
With inputs from agencies