France has banned outdoor gatherings of more than six people as the third wave of coronavirus infections peaked with a record 45,000 new cases on Thursday.
In his weekly address, the Minister of Health Olivier Veran declared that the epidemic situation was “not good in France”.
“The trend is accelerating almost everywhere,” he said, announcing restrictive measures in Aube, Nièvre and Rhône bringing the total of semi-confined administrative divisions to 19.
The diagnosis of 45,000 cases was last recorded in October when France announced a second lockdown. Veran, however, refuted the possibility of a third lockdown.
While the number of deaths in the past 24 hours was 225, it is new hospitalized patients that remain the main concern.
The situation remains very worrying in the northern regions of the Paris region of Ile-de-France, and in Hauts-de-France and Provence in the south, which have seen an increase in hospitalizations.
The number of intensive care patients in Ile-de-France is 1,407, 605 in Hauts-de-France and 505 in Marseille.
ICU admissions primarily include younger patients, many of whom are infected with the rapidly spreading variants.
Veran also expressed concern about transmissions in schools, but said shutting them nationwide would be the last resort. Instead, the authorities will organize screening campaigns.
In recent days, 105 primary schools have been closed across the country, with around 15,484 schoolchildren testing positive for the coronavirus.
The main national union of primary teachers, however, threatened to strike in Paris over the government’s lack of staff protection, SNUipp-FSU said in a statement.
On the vaccination front, Veran called on health students and retired caregivers, healthcare professionals to lend a hand as France seeks to ramp up the campaign.
According to the latest data, 13.6% of the adult population is vaccinated. A total of 7,168,437 people (over 7.1 million) received at least one injection and 2,610,990 (over 2.6 million) received both vaccines. A total of 9,780,000 (nearly 9.8 million) doses have been administered since December 27.
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