French hospitals registered 1,307 new coronavirus patients on Monday in the highest one-day increase since April 2, which saw 1,607 new patients, as the health system comes under increasing stress from a runaway infection rate.
French health ministry data showed that the country now has a total of 17,784 coronavirus patients in its hospitals, compared with a record 32,292 on April 14, at the height of the gruelling eight-week lockdown in the spring.
The ministry also reported 26,771 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. On Monday, the tally usually drops sharply because of reporting lags over the weekend.
The death toll went up by 257, taking the cumulative total since the start of the epidemic to 35,018.
This comes after France reported a record of more than 52,000 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, raising concerns that greater restrictions may be needed as the country struggles to contain the epidemic.
Despite the French government’s efforts to rein in the virus with targeted measures in local hotspots – such as bar closures and curfews – the rate of infections has continued to climb nationwide.
After passing the 1 million mark last week, France has now overtaken neighbouring Spain as the country with the highest number of confirmed cases in Europe, according to data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Sunday.
The figures suggest that the outbreak may be worse than previously known, while experts have warned that the actual number of people infected in France could be up to two times higher than reported.
“We are in a very difficult situation, even critical," Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the government’s Scientific Council, told RTL radio on Monday. "There are probably more than 50,000 cases per day. [We] estimate that there are probably around 100,000 cases per day.
“Between diagnosed cases, undiagnosed cases and asymptomatic cases, we’re around this figure. We’re dealing with a virus that spreads extremely quickly.”
Several regions in France have implemented emergency plans in hospitals, delaying non-essential operations to make space in ICU units for coronavirus patients and cancelling staff holidays.
Sources told Reuters that authorities were looking at options for still tighter measures to fight Covid-19, including starting a 9pm to 6am curfew earlier, confining people to their homes at weekends except for essential trips and closing non-essential shops.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP and AP)