PARIS (Reuters) - France's health ministry said on Tuesday that the number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) with COVID-19 increased by 98 to 5,072 people, the highest this year.
The last time France had more than 5,000 people in ICUs for coronavirus-related disease was on April 23, 2020 during the first lockdown, when the number of people in ICU peaked at 7,148 on April 8.
During France's second lockdown in November, the high was 4,919. But while after the first lockdown the number of people in ICUs dropped to a low of 367 in mid-August, the emergency wards never emptied out after the second lockdown, which was less strict, and only briefly dipped below 2,600 in early January.
Health Minister Olivier Veran told parliament on Tuesday: "We will not let doctors be in a situation where they have to choose among patients" to treat, amid a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Veran said the next 24-48 hours would be key in assessing the impact of new confinement measures taken 10 days ago to limit the spread of highly contagious variants and that the government was ready to take additional measures if necessary.
France on Tuesday also reported that the number of new cases increased by 30,602 to 4.58 million, a week-on-week increase of 6.3%, the highest week-on-week increase since the end of November.
The week-on-week increases in case counts have been rising steadily from about 4% in early March, but are still far from the double-digit increases of the end of August 2020 through mid-November.
The health ministry reported 381 new deaths, including 45 deaths in retirement homes over several days, taking the cumulative death toll to 95,337.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Grant McCool)