France announces new Covid-19 restrictions as cases top 18,000 for a second day 0

The French cities of Lyon, Lille, Grenoble and Saint-Étienne will go on maximum coronavirus alert from Saturday, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Thursday.

Paris, Marseille and the overseas territory of Guadeloupe have also been put on maximum alert in recent weeks, leading to the closure of local bars and cafés.

Véran added that the situation in Toulouse and Montpellier was worrying and that those cities could also be moved to the maximum Covid-19 alert level starting early next week.

“The health situation in France, alas, is continuing to worsen,” he said. “Every day in France, more and more people are being infected, more and more are falling ill, and more and more are suffering serious effects that require hospitalisation.”

Véran’s announcement came shortly after officials reported 18,129 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, with the daily tally staying above 18,000 for the second day running after Wednesday’s all-time high of 18,746.

The health minister urged the public to help fight the virus by wearing face masks and keeping a safe distance from others, even at home where there has been a concerning increase in the number of young people infecting older, more vulnerable family members.

Meanwhile, hospitals in the Paris region moved into emergency mode on Thursday, cancelling staff holidays and postponing non-essential operations, as coronavirus patients made up close to half of all patients in intensive care units (ICUs).

The number of people in hospital for Covid-19 stood at a three-month high of 7,624 on a national level, an increase of 88 over 24 hours. That total is still lower than an April 14 peak of 32,292 but up versus an August 29 low of 4,530.

There were 11 more patients in ICUs for the disease, making a tally of 1,427, almost four times higher than a July 31 low of 371.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 rose by 76, a figure higher than the seven-day moving average of 73, and now stands at 32,521.