French health authorities reported a record 86,852 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to Saturday, as the country's death toll surged past 40,000.
More than 1.7 million people have now contracted the virus in France, with the latest figures up by nearly 20,000 the day before, when the previous record was just over 60,000 new infections.
The national toll is now 40,169, after a further 304 people died in hospital. A total of 4,410 intensive care beds are occupied, with emergency services in some regions risking saturation. On the flip side, a total of 127,907 people have been discharged from hospital since the epidemic began.
Laboratory staff overwhelmed
One in five people tested have returned postive results, up from 1 in 20 at the beginning of September. The number of people being tested has risen exponentially over the past few weeks, with Le Parisien reporting on Sunday that laboratories and pharmacies around France have been recruiting students to carry out one million tests per week.
The leading site in France for temporary job assignments, StaffMe, shows over 200 advertisements for Covid-19 testers in the Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris alone.
Meanwhile, French virologists continue to call for research into the origins of the virus. Etienne Decroly, virologist at the national research centre CNRS, said in an interview with Le Parisien published on Sunday that he was open to the hypothesis of a virus that accidentally escaped from a laboratory – a theory vehemently denied by China.
“On the basis of currently available data, it is impossible to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 is the result of a natural zoonotic emergence or an accidental escape from experimental strains,” Decroly wrote in a study published in August.