New coronavirus cases rise in France, third national lockdown feared

·2 min read
People, wearing protective face masks, walk in Nantes

PARIS (Reuters) - The daily number of new coronavirus infections in France stayed above 20,000 on average for the fourth straight day on Tuesday while hospitalisations reached an eight-week high of 27,041, increasing fears of a third national lockdown.

President Emmanuel Macron still hopes a 6 p.m. curfew put in place 11 days ago will be enough to rein in the surge in new cases caused by the emergence of more contagious variants of the virus.

Despite calls from some doctors and medics for a new lockdown, government minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said earlier there was no need to make a decision on such a measure at this stage.

Macron will head the weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday and a government press conference is scheduled for Thursday.

Health authorities reported 22,086 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours on Tuesday, up sharply from Monday's 4,240 for a seven-day moving average of 20,230.

The government needs that figure to go below 5,000 to regard the pandemic as being fully under control.

The number of people being treated in intensive-care units for COVID-19 was also up, at 3,081, staying above 3,000 for the second day running. A drop below 3,000 led the government to relax the second lockdown on Dec. 15.

France's cumulative total of infections stands at 3,079,943, the sixth highest in the world.

Its COVID-19 death toll rose by 612 to 74,106, the world's seventh highest, after an increase of 445 on Monday. The seven-day moving average of new fatalities stands at 395.

After France's Pasteur Institute said on Monday it had decided to halt one potential COVID-19 vaccine project, French pharmaceutical company Sanofi said it would aim to supply more than 100 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine from July.

Some 91,522 people received their first vaccine shot in France on Tuesday, bringing the total since vaccinations began on Dec. 27 to 1,184,510 in a population of 67 million.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)