New COVID-19 cases in France increase more slowly

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FILE PHOTO: ICU for COVID-19 patients in Vannes

PARIS (Reuters) - France on Wednesday reported 34,968 new coronavirus cases, up 4.36% compared to last Wednesday, in the lowest week-on-week increase since mid-March as a third nationwide lockdown started to show some effect.

This year, week-on-week increases have only briefly dipped below the 4% level, in mid-February, and rose to more than 6% in late March-early April, before the government ordered the third lockdown just over two weeks ago.

The new cases took the total to 5.37 million. The government also reported 313 new deaths in hospitals, taking the cumulative toll to 101,881, health ministry data showed.

The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 fell by 25 to 5,959 people as pressure on the hospital system remained high.

The number of people in hospital with the disease eased by 132 to 30,954 but remained well above the 30,000 level, where it has been since the start of the third lockdown on April 6.

The government said earlier on Wednesday that domestic travel restrictions imposed to tackle the spread of the virus are expected to be lifted on May 3 and said it was sticking to a base-case scenario of bars and restaurants being allowed to re-open outdoor seating by mid-May.

(Reporting by GV De Clercq and Matthieu Protard, Editing by William Maclean)