France declared its capital Paris and the port city of Marseille high-risk zones for the coronavirus on Friday as the government reported more than 2,500 new infections for the third day in a row.
The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, increased to 2,041, doubling over the last two weeks.
This went beyond the 2,000 threshold for the first time since April 20, when France was in the middle of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
In the wake of these figures, Paris authorities published an updated map where wearing a mask will be mandatory, with whole swaths of the city now covered by the measure, including the famed Champs Elysees, which had been left out of the initial map.
Despite the rise in cases, which prompted Britain to remove France from its list of safe travel destinations, the number of people hospitalised due to the disease continued to fall, having dipped below 5,000 for the first time since mid-March on Wednesday.
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The total official tally of cases now stands at 212,211.
Health ministry epidemiologist Daniel Levy-Bruhl described the situation as “worrying”, stressing the number of new cases was up sharply in all age groups but especially 25- to 35-year olds.
Because that age group is less likely to need hospital care – around the world the coronavirus has overwhelmingly killed elderly people – France’s hospital system is holding up.
The number of people in intensive care units for the disease has fallen to 367, a new low since mid-March and a level almost 20 times lower than a peak of 7,148 reached on April 8.
Speaking on BFM TV, Levy-Bruhl said authorities are not “presently worried by the hospital situation but we are worried of how this situation could evolve if measures are not taken to stop the increase of cases we’re witnessing”.
The daily death toll increased by 18 to 30,406 on Friday versus a rise of 17 over the last two days.