(This March 12th story corrects vaccination numbers in last two paragraphs)
PARIS (Reuters) – The COVID-19 situation in the Paris region is extremely tense and authorities are ready to take new measures, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday, but he did not announce a tightening of curfew or new regional lockdowns.
Despite rising COVID-19 cases, the administration of President Emmanuel Macron has not to date declared a new national lockdown, opting instead to tighten measures locally in hard-hit towns like Nice and Dunkirk, but Paris has been spared so far.
“I call on everyone, and especially those who live in the capital, to be extremely careful, wear the mask and respect social distancing. The aim is to reduce the pressure on the hospital system,” Castex said during a visit to a hospital.
The number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units on Friday exceeded 4,000 for the first time since Nov. 26, with nearly 1,100 COVID-19 patients in ICUs in the Paris region alone.
In Paris and the surrounding region, healthcare managers say the intensive care units are close to being overloaded.
Castex said that in the Ile-de-France region around Paris the vaccination campaign would be sped up this weekend, with the delivery of 25,000 extra doses.
France’s vaccination programme has been hampered by logistical bottlenecks and problems with deliveries from vaccine manufacturers but Castex said the campaign was speeding up, with 329,326 shots administered on Friday, a new record.
As of Friday, 4.9 million people – 7.2% the French population — had received a first injection and 2.2 million had received two, official figures showed.
(Reporting by GV De Clercq; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Kirsten Donovan)