France’s coronavirus infections remain high as more restrictions loom

The number of coronavirus infections in France surged to over 25,000 for a third running day, while the death toll worsened further as the government is weighing up more restrictive rules to contain the epidemic fuelled by the emergence of more infectious variants.

To date, France has registered a total of 3,712,020 cases after 25,207 infections were confirmed in a 24-hour span, Public Health Agency said Friday. The country’s death toll rose by 286 to 86,147.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex warned that “after several months marked by a plateau of between 15,000 and 20,000 cases per day, the virus has been gaining ground again since a week.”

Twenty departments in France, including the Greater Paris region, are placed under “reinforced surveillance” due to the worsening epidemic situation.

In the northern city of Dunkirk and the Mediterranean Alpes-Maritimes region, a weekend lockdown has been in place. People have to stay at home from 6 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday, while a nationwide nightly curfew will remain during the rest of the week.

In areas under “reinforced surveillance,” the government is considering local weekend lockdowns from March 6 unless the number of daily cases slows down, delaying a possible nationwide lockdown which many experts pressed on.

“I do not understand what we are waiting for,” said Philippe Juvin, head of the emergency department of Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris.

“As we get closer to an epidemic peak, each day spent without taking a decision comes with a heavy price,” he told BFMTV news channel early Friday.

In Paris, the city hall proposed to impose a strict three-week lockdown after which catering businesses and cultural venues would be able to reopen, said Emmanuel Gregoire, the city’s Deputy Mayor.

The prime minister reacted by calling the idea “nonsense,” adding it is not possible given the more contagious variants.

An Elabe poll released on Wednesday found that 60 percent of French people expected a third lockdown would be enforced in the coming weeks, up by 12 points from last week’s survey.

Meanwhile, over 2.8 million people had received the first dose of a vaccine and some 1.49 million had the two shots as of Thursday, Health Ministry’s figures showed.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 255 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 73 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to the latest information released by the World Health Organization.