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France's new COVID-19 infections near all-time high, hospitalisations up

A health worker, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, prepares to administer a nasal swab to a patient at a testing site for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) installed in front of the city hall in Paris, France, September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

PARIS (Reuters) - Daily new COVID-19 infections in France neared an all-time high on Wednesday and the number of people hospitalised in intensive care units for the disease grew at its fastest pace in almost two months.

“The virus keeps spreading in the country,” French health authorities said in a statement, adding roughly a fifth of France’s departments - or administrative districts - were affected by an “active circulation of the disease”.

There were 7,017 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, just below the March 31 peak of 7,578 and only the third time since the beginning of the outbreak that the daily tally has stood above 7,000.

The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, stood at a record of 5,634 and remained above the 5,000 threshold for the fourth day in a row, versus a low of 272 on May 27 - two weeks after authorities lifted a two-month-long lockdown.

The cumulative number of cases now totals 293,024.

As the surge in infections has mainly affected young people, who are less likely to develop complications linked to the disease, there has been no new strain on the French hospital system, who was almost overwhelmed at the end of March.

But after steadily declining for months after an April 14 peak of 32,292, the number of people hospitalised for the disease was up by 28 on Wednesday, at 4,632, increasing for a fifth day in a row, a sequence unseen seen mid-April.

And, among those new cases, the number of people in ICUs for COVID-19 rose by 22 to 446, far below the April 8 record of 7,148 but rising for the sixth consecutive day.

The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections rose on Wednesday by 25 to 30,686, above the seven-day moving average of 20.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Mark Heinrich