French curfew insufficient against spread of virus, health minister Véran says

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The Covid-19 virus is circulating more quickly every week and a tighter curfew put in place earlier this month has not managed to curb the spread of the virus, French Health Minister Olivier Véran told a news conference on Thursday.

Véran said that new variants of the coronavirus were "actively spreading", resulting in heightened pressure on France's hospital system.

He called for stricter measures to contain the virus, on top of the current 6pm-to-6am curfew.

"We consider these new variants as new viruses," Véran said, adding: "We need to avoid a pandemic within the pandemic."

The health minister said the number of patients infected with new variants has increased from about 500 per day in early January to more than 2,000 patients per day today.

About 60 percent of French intensive care beds are now occupied by coronavirus patients, he said, adding that France is now close to having to transfer patients between regions to relieve pressure on certain hospitals.

Earlier, France's government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the coronavirus variant first discovered in England, which is said to have a higher rate of transmission, had been found in 10 percent of Covid-19 cases in France.

Attal told France Inter radio that the option of a stricter lockdown remained open to President Emmanuel Macron's government, but he did not provide more specific details.

France reported nearly 27,000 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, its biggest one-day jump since mid-November when France was in its second full lockdown.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)