France's COVID-19 hospitalisations near a five-month high

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The COVID-19 battle in northern French hospital

PARIS (Reuters) -France's hospital system is under heavy pressure from the pandemic, with the number of people treated in intensive care units for COVID-19 at the highest in almost a year, even though the country has just entered its third lockdown.

The health ministry reported on Tuesday that the number of people in ICUs with COVID-19 had increased by 193 over 24 hours to 5,626, a peak since April 20, 2020, when France was in its first March-May 2020 lockdown.

And that figure is also rising further above the 4,919 high reached during country's second lockdown from Oct. 30 to Dec. 15.

The total number of people hospitalised with the disease rose by 732 over 24 hours, the sharpest daily increase for more than four months, to 30,639, breaching the 30,000 limit for the first time since Nov. 24 and closing in on the Nov. 16 record of 33,497.

France is hoping a ramp up of its vaccination campaign, combined with the one-month lockdown in place since last week-end, will help it regain control over the latest outbreak, fuelled by variants of the novel coronavirus.

Earlier on Tuesday, the country started administering shots of the COVID-19 vaccine inside the Stade de France, the national stadium that once hosted soccer's World Cup final.

A little more than 9.5 million people, representing 14.2% of the French population, have received at least one jab of a COVID vaccine, putting the government on track to reach the 10 million milestone earlier than the mid-April target it had set itself.

In comparison, the percentage of the population in Britain that has been given at least one dose of the vaccine stands at 47, according to Reuters data.

Health authorities also reported 8,045 new infections in France, at 4.84 million, a figure sharply lower than last Tuesday's 30,702. But that decrease is probably due to the fact that Monday was a bank holiday, meaning fewer people had themselves tested.

The French death toll went up by 426 to 97,273, the eighth-highest in the world. The country's case count is the fourth-highest globally.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Bernadette Baum)