France's Macron to address the nation on Tuesday as COVID cases surge

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron will speak to the nation on Tuesday about the resurgence of COVID-19 infections as well as his economic reform programme, the government said on Friday.

Infection rates have accelerated strongly in the past month, with the number of new COVID-19 cases rising by double-digit percentages from last week for several days in a row.

"The epidemic is picking up speed again in Europe, Europe has again become the epicentre of the epidemic," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters.

The seven-day average of daily new infections now stands at more than 6,200, up from less than 4,200 in early October.

Attal said Macron would review the COVID-19 situation and would also talk about the country's economic recovery, the government's reform programme and other issues. Macron's office said the speech would be on Tuesday.

Macron's last major televised speech was on July 12 at the start of a fourth wave of infections. He announced then that vaccinations would be mandatory for all health workers.

French epidemiologists have recently suggested widening the scope of the vaccine booster campaign to include new categories.

On Wednesday, the government said face masks would again be compulsory from next week for school children in 39 regional departments where infection rates are high.

Prime Minister Jean Castex, meanwhile, said the national incidence rate - the number of new infections per week per 100,000 inhabitants - was now well above the alert level of 50.

"This is not an explosion, but it requires the greatest vigilance. Now is not the time to let our guard down," he said.

The average weekly incidence rate set a 2021 high of 438 in April and then fell below 20 at the end of June following a series of confinement measures.

It rose again to 247 at the peak of the fourth wave in mid-August. After briefly falling below the alert level of 50 in early October, the trend turned again on Oct. 21 and the incidence rate stood at 65 on Thursday.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Matthieu Protard, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alison Williams, Nick Macfie and David Clarke)

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