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France plans new local virus measures as infections hit record

France is planning new restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus in two major cities, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday after infections hit a record daily high.

Paris, 11 September 2020 (dpa/MIA) – France is planning new restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus in two major cities, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday after infections hit a record daily high.

Castex warned that “for the first time in many weeks,” the number of patients hospitalized was also going up and the virus was again beginning to infect elderly and other vulnerable people.

French health authorities said late Thursday that 9,843 new cases had been diagnosed in the previous 24 hours.

That is higher than was recorded during the March-to-April peak of the virus that saw more than 24,000 people die – France’s total toll now stands at more than 30,800 – and the country go into a strict 55-day lockdown.

However, the figures cannot be directly compared as France is now testing far more people – more than 1 million tests are now being carried out weekly, Castex said.

The premier acknowledged that results were coming through too slowly for those who needed them most urgently – persons presenting symptoms or in contact with infected people and health workers.

There would be dedicated laboratory times for them and “dedicated testing processes” would be reinforced, he said in a televised address after a national defence council meeting on the epidemic.

Castex said that the situation in the Bordeaux and Marseille urban areas as well as the Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe was particularly worrying, with infections among older people and “an already high rate of hospitalizations.”

He said he had instructed local administrators to come up with new measures by Monday to slow down infections in those areas.

The premier also announced the recruitment of 2,000 new staff to trace contact cases.

The isolation period for contact cases would be reduced to seven days from the current 14, but there would be checks on compliance, he said.

Many doctors fear that the intensive care units could be overburdened in the coming three months – as they were in March. Currently, large gatherings are already prohibited.

In many major cities, including Paris and Marseille, masks are now mandatory, even on the streets and in parks.

Castex appealed to the population as a whole to strictly observe hygiene and mask-wearing rules and physical distancing.

Older people should be especially cautious, he said.

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