PARIS (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus patients in French intensive care units hit a new high for this year on Saturday, increasing pressure to impose new restrictions that President Emmanuel Macron says will likely be necessary.
France had 4,791 intensive care patients treated for COVID-19, up from 4,766 on Friday, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
The numbers are approaching a peak recorded in mid-November during the second wave of the virus, although last spring, when France imposed its first lockout, saw a peak of more than 7,000.
Doctors say intensive care units in the worst-affected areas could be overwhelmed.
The government’s commitment to keep schools open has been called into question due to the increase in the number of cases among students and opposition from teachers, who are threatening to leave.
Spain said on Saturday it would require people arriving by land from France to present a negative coronavirus test result.
Macron this week defended his decision not to impose a third full lockdown, but said further restrictions would likely be needed.
Three additional regions, including the Rhône department around Lyon, joined other regions, including Paris, on Saturday to close non-essential stores and restrict travel. Police were in Paris, Nice and other cities to enforce the rules.
The government is also trying to speed up a stuttering vaccination campaign.
France expects to receive 3 million doses of vaccines this week, rising to 4 million per week in a month, the young Minister of Industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher told radio Europe 1.
As of Saturday, more than 7.7 million people had received a first dose of the vaccine, the health ministry said.
The death toll from COVID-19 in France, at nearly 95,000, is the eighth in the world.