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French new COVID-19 cases at seven-week high

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PARIS (Reuters) – France’s new COVID-19 infections are on average increasing by more than 18,000 a day, a seven-week high, and the number of people hospitalised is rising again as the country grapples with the more infectious variant of the virus first found in Britain.

These latest trends, published on Monday, will be discussed in the coming days by the government which is pondering whether to impose a third national lockdown and extend a 6 p.m. curfew, now enforced in some areas, to all of France.

The French health ministry reported 3,582 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a figure lower than Sunday’s 15,944 and than last Monday’s 4,022.

It also said more than 138,000 people had so far received vaccine doses, as it ramps up an immunization campaign so far focused on elderly care home residents, healthcare workers and other exposed or vulnerable groups.

French authorities have identified three more cases of the more infectious COVID-19 variant now spreading in the UK, regional newspaper Ouest France reported later on Monday, citing health officials. The infections were detected in the western town of Cholet among members of a family normally based in Britain and their French-resident grandparents.

France’s cumulative total of cases stands at 2,786,838, the sixth-highest in the world. The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, stands at 18,155, staying above the 18,000 threshold for the second day running, a sequence not seen since Nov. 23.

France has 24,846 patients being treated for the virus, a six-day high. After peaking at 33,497 on Nov. 14, that figure fell for a month due to the country’s second lockdown which ended on Dec. 15. Since then, the tally has essentially been stuck between 24,000 and 25,000.

The number of people treated in intensive care units (ICUs) for the disease was up for the third time in four days, at 2,676, staying inside the 2,500-3,000 range the government had targeted to relax the lockdown last month.

The COVID-19 death toll was up by 310, at 68,060, the seventh-highest in the world.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Laurence Frost in Paris; Editing by Toby Chopra and Matthew Lewis)

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