France on Tuesday reported 271,686 new cases of Covid-19, detected in the last 24 hours, the highest daily record since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.

According to data released by the French Public Health Agency, a total of 20,186 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized and 3,665 of them are in intensive care, Xinhua news agency reported.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon to the French National Assembly, Health Minister Olivier Veran stressed the importance of vaccination, citing that vaccination helps people not to develop severe symptoms.

Discussions on the vaccine pass bill were suspended in parliament after midnight on Monday after a majority of MPs in the lower house voted to suspend the late-night session.

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The vaccine pass bill, if passed, would make it mandatory for people to show proof of vaccination to go to restaurants or cinemas or other public spaces, and remove the option of showing a recent negative test.

Prime Minister Jean Castex called the National Assembly "irresponsible" to suspend the debates of the draft bill. "We are in a race against time, the virus is jumping and you are pulling on the handbrake," he said.

France has shortened the period of self-isolation. With a full vaccination scheme, the self-isolation of seven days can be shortened to five days if a negative PCR test result or negative antigen test result is presented after the five days.

Those in close contact with a Covid-19 infected person, with a full vaccination scheme, won't have to undergo quarantine or self-isolation, but the preventive measures must be respected as well as doing regular tests.

For the unvaccinated, the self-isolation period of ten days can be shortened to seven days if a negative result of Covid-19 or negative antigen test result is presented after seven days.

Veran previously announced that, in order to keep the health pass validated, the delay between the second dose and the booster dose is going to be four months maximum, starting from February 15.

Those having a valid health pass after receiving two doses of Chinese vaccines and one dose of mRNA vaccine will also need a booster shot.

IHU variant found in France

Meanwhile, French researchers have detected a new Covid variant, probably of Cameroonian origin, and have temporarily named it as 'IHU'.

The new variant from the lineage named B.1.640.2 is believed to have infected 12 people in the country, according to a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study supported by the French Government. It has 46 mutations and 37 deletions.

"For twelve SARS-CoV-positive patients living in the same geographical area of southeastern France, qPCR testing that screen for variant-associated mutations showed an atypical combination," said Philippe Colson, from IHU Mediterranee Infection, Marseille, France.

However, "it is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases," Colson said.

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According to the study, the index case (the first patient) was an vaccinated adult who had returned to France from a trip to Cameroon, in central Africa.

Three days after returning he developed mild respiratory symptoms. His nasopharyngeal sample collected mid-November 2021, "revealed an atypical combination that did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant involved in almost all SARS-CoV-2 infections at that time", and later to Omicron as well, Colson said.

Respiratory samples collected from seven other SARS-CoV-2-positive patients living in the same geographical area exhibited the same combination of mutations screened by qPCR. They were two adults and five children (below 15 years of age).