French Health Minister Francois Braun leaves following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Oct 26, 2022. (SARAH MEYSSONNIER / REUTERS)

PARIS / LOS ANGELES – The decision to make wearing face-masks in public transportation mandatory again to contain a new surge in the COVID-19 epidemic will depend on the evolution of the situation, French Health Minister Francois Braun said on Monday.

"I invite people to put on masks in public transportation even if it's not mandatory," he told reporters while visiting a French hospital.

The number of people in France's intensive care units for COVID-19 has reached a peak since Aug 8, at 1,113 and total hospitalizations for the disease are close to 20,000 again for the first time since end Oct

"The decision (to make it mandatory) will depend on the evolution of the pandemic," Braun said, adding that option was "on the table".

As of last Friday, the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID infections stood at 54,824, a more than six-week high in France versus less than 25,000 in early Nov.

However, it is still well below levels of over 100,000 seen over March-April and in July, and a record of over 366,000 in January.

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The number of people in intensive care units for COVID-19 has reached a peak since Aug 8, at 1,113 and total hospitalizations for the disease are close to 20,000 again for the first time since end Oct.

United States

The daily average of COVID-19 hospitalizations rose again in the United States amid winter surge, according to the latest data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The country averaged about 4,200 daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the week ending Nov 29, a 17.6 percent increase from a week before, CDC data showed.

COVID hospitalizations last week reached their highest level in three months, with more than 35,000 patients being treated, according to Washington Post data tracking.

Meanwhile, senior citizens in California, the most populous state in the United States, are hit hard as COVID-19 surges this winter, local media reported on Monday, citing official data.

There has been a troubling spike in coronavirus-positive hospital admissions among seniors in the western US state, rising to levels not seen since the summer Omicron surge, reported the Los Angeles Times, the biggest newspaper on US West Coast.

READ MORE: People-first should be guide for any adjustment of COVID policy

The newspaper noted that hospitalizations have roughly tripled for Californians of most age groups since the autumn low, but the jump in seniors in need of hospital care has been particularly dramatic.

Only 35 percent of California's vaccinated seniors aged 65 and up have received the updated booster since it became available in Sept. Among eligible 50- to 64-year-olds, about 21 percent have received the updated booster, according to the report.

Separately, Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Monday they have submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization of their Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine booster for children aged 6 months through 4 years.

If authorized, children would receive the primary series consisting of two doses of the original Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine and one shot of the Omicron-adapted bivalent vaccine, the company said.

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The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the original strain and the BA.4/BA.5 Omicron sub-variants, is currently authorized as a booster dose for ages 5 years and older in the United States and the European Union (EU).