French average of new COVID-19 cases drops below 5,000 for first time since mid-July

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - The French seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases dropped below 5,000 again for the first time since July 13, health ministry data released on Friday showed.

The ministry reported 4,935 news cases on Friday, taking the total to 7.02 million and the seven-day moving average, which smoothes out daily reporting irregularities, fell by 135 to 4,967.

After the third lockdown in spring, average new daily cases had fallen below 2,000 by the end of June, but a more contagious new variant of the virus sent the infection rate spiking up again to nearly 24,000 by mid-August.

Since then it has gradually been falling again as the introduction of a mandatory health pass for entering restaurants and other public places gave a new boost to France's vaccination campaign.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 continued to fall on Friday, and the ministry also reported 49 new deaths, taking the cumulative toll since the start of the epidemic to 116,739 deaths.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by David Evans)

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