PARIS (Reuters) – France registered a record 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus in the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Thursday, the country’s highest single-day count since the pandemic began.
The rise followed a government decision to make COVID-19 tests free, leading to a surge in testing and an increase in infection rates.
The previous high in 24 hours in France was 10,561 new cases, recorded on Sept. 12. The seven-day moving average of new cases – which smoothes out irregularities – rose to a high of nearly 8,800.
The ministry reported that the cumulative number of cases had risen to 415,481, and the death toll had risen by 50 to 31,095, the second-highest number of new deaths in a day in two months.
The government’s decision to make COVID-19 testing free has resulted in long queues at testing centres in cities and testing has increased six-fold since the peak of the first coronavirus wave.
About 1.2 million tests were carried out last week, the health minister said. Data show 5.4% of tests were positive.
Doctors say many tests are pointless as some people who have no symptoms, or have had no contact with people with confirmed cases, take multiple tests.
“To get tested three times a week is totally delirious. Anyone can show up and say they have symptoms,” Jean-Jacques Zambrowski, a doctor and health policy lecturer at Paris Descartes university, said on BFM TV.
French television showed scenes of chaos at testing centres in big cities, with people waiting hours and jostling in queues.
Hundreds of workers at laboratories went on strike on Thursday over poor working conditions as the testing system buckles under the demand.
The number of people being treated in hospital for COVID-19 rose by 25 to 5,844, the 19th consecutive daily increase after a low of 4,530 at the end of August, down from a mid-April high of over 32,000.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Editing by Chris Reese and Timothy Heritage)