PARIS (Reuters) – France’s daily new COVID-19 infections rose by more than 8,500 for the third time in six days on Wednesday, with the disease spreading at its fastest pace since it emerged in the country.
The number of people taken to hospital with the virus was also up, by 43 – increasing for the 11th day in a row to reach a one-month high of 5,003.
The number of patients in intensive care units with COVID-19 was up 25 to 599, a level not seen since the end of June.
The rate of increase of additional cases has been steadily rising for two months, but as they primarily involve younger people, who are less likely to fall seriously ill, that didn’t translate into renewed strain on the hospital system until the end of last month.
Hospitalisations for the disease are still more than six times below the April 14 peak of 32,292 and the number of patients in ICUs is far below the April 8 record of 7,148.
But the upward trend of those two indicators is fuelling fears of a second lockdown. France imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns between March 17 and May 11 to prevent the hospital system from being overwhelmed.
In a statement, French health authorities reported 8,577 new infections, the second-highest daily tally on record after Friday’s 8,975. The cumulative number of cases is now 344,101.
The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, stood at 7,297, a 23rd consecutive record, versus a low of 272 on May 27.
The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections increased by 30, to 30,794, after a rise of 38 on Tuesday, a figure twice as high as the seven-day moving average of 15.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Chris Reese and Mark Potter)