France grapples with third wave of Covid-19 infections

·2-min read

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday that time had come for additional coronavirus restrictions in the greater Paris region as the country enters a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

French health authorities reported 29,975 new cases on Tuesday, a 4.5 percent jump versus last Tuesday's total and the sharpest week-on-week rise in a month and a half.

The steady rise of new cases has led to a heavy strain on the hospital system, especially in the capital where infections have surged.

"It seems to me that the time has come to consider new measures in the greater Paris region," Castex said in an interview on BFM TV.

He said weekend lockdowns such as those already in place in two other regions were among measures to be considered for the greater Paris region at a meeting on Wednesday.

"There is no reason why we shouldn't do in one region what we are doing in another," Castex said.

The prime minister had earlier Tuesday told the National Assembly that France had entered a third wave of the pandemic, as the seven-day average of new cases rose above 25,000 for the first time since November 20.

Vaccination lag

Like other EU countries, France has lagged far behind the United States or Britain in vaccinating its population.

President Emmanuel Macron is still hoping a vaccination drive can stave off the effects of a new pandemic wave triggered by more contagious variants, and thus prevent France from resorting to a third national lockdown.

But suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, announced on Monday over safety concerns, could jeopardise the government's strategy.

The health ministry said there were 4,239 patients in intensive care units for Covid-19, up by 20 over 24 hours and setting a nearly four-month high. The total number of people hospitalised for the disease was up by 23 to 25,492, the highest tally since February 24.

The number of people who have died increased by 408 to 91,170, the world's seventh-highest death toll. The seven-day moving average of deaths is 267.

With 4.11 million people infected since the start of the outbreak, France has the sixth-highest case count in the world.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)