PARIS (Reuters) - France's new COVID-19 infections surged by almost 50% in August, which recorded the highest monthly tally since the beginning of the outbreak earlier this year, while hospitalisations for the disease seem to be creeping up again.
The country's health authorities reported 3,082 additional cases over the past 24 hours, sharply down from a caseload of above 5,000 each on the two previous days, but the Monday figure always tends to dip as there are less tests conducted on Sundays.
The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, stood at 5,167, reaching a new record for a fourth day in a row, versus a low of 272 on May 27, two weeks after the country ended its two-month long lockdown.
France's cumulative total of COVID-19 infections has reached 281,025 versus 187,919 at the end of July. In August, new cases increased on average by a record 3,003 every day, a figure four times higher than July's average increase of 746 per day.
The surge of new cases has led authorities to re-impose some containment measures, such as making face masks mandatory in the streets, shops and public transportation of almost all the country's main cities.
And, as of Tuesday, masks will also be compulsory in workplaces.
But, as the new school year starts this week, French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex have been saying they will do everything to avoid a new national lockdown.
The number of people in hospital for the disease has declined by 14% in August versus July as the virus is now mainly circulating among young people, who typically do not develop serious symptoms.
But that figure has risen for the second day running on Monday, at 4,582, after going down for almost two weeks. And the number of people in intensive care units was up for a fourth day in a row, at 409.
Those figures are still very low compared to their respective peaks of 32,292 and 7,148 seen in April but health experts are following the trends closely.
France reported 29 new deaths from COVID-19 on Monday, meaning the average daily fatalities fell to a new low of 12 in August, versus 14 in July and of peak of 695 in April.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Franklin Paul and Lisa Shumaker)