France may be past the worst of its second wave of coronavirus infections, the country's health agency said Friday, warning however that protective measures should be kept in place.
Thanks to curfews and lockdowns, confirmed new infections dropped 40 percent last week, admissions to hospital fell 13 percent, and the number of new intensive care patients was down nine percent, Santé Publique France said.
The data provided fresh arguments for shop owners who have been lobbying to be allowed to reopen for the crucial Christmas period, while the government was trying to decide what to do about the coming Black Friday shopping splurge.
"Although indicators are still at high levels, they suggest that the peak of the second peak is behind us," the agency said.
President Emmanuel Macron will talk about the country's coronavirus crisis on Tuesday at 2000 CET (1900), a source at the presidential palace said on Friday.
BFM TV reported earlier that Macron would talk about how and when France's second lockdown measures could be eased.
The number of Covid deaths has stabilised after several weeks of increases, the agency said, with 3,756 recorded fatalities compared with 3,817 a week earlier.
French cities that imposed curfews earliest are now seeing the sharpest decreases in patient numbers, Santé Publique said.
Lockdown measures were having "a direct impact" on patient statistics, which typically started to fall around 10 days after restrictions kicked in.
The government placed Paris and some other large cities on curfew on October 17, with others following suit a week later.
But since October 30, all of France has been under a lockdown, though it is less severe than the one seen in the spring, with schools still open and a wider range of shops still welcoming clients.
Santé Public said the "encouraging" statistics "should not make us forget that pending the availability of treatments and vaccines, the only way to slow the pandemic and lessen its impact on the health system is still to adopt individual prevention measures, combined with collective measures".
Health Minister Olivier Véran said Thursday that lifting the lockdown was not on the agenda for now.
On Friday, Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari warned that it was too early to say whether people would be able to travel at Christmas, saying the Covid trend reversal was still "fragile".
National rail operator SNCF has slashed train schedules by 70 percent, but is planning to ramp its network back to normal capacity starting December 15.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)