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France mulls more COVID curbs as intensive care beds fill

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PARIS (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron met senior cabinet ministers on Tuesday to discuss possible further restrictions to tackle a second coronavirus wave sweeping across France.

France, like neighbouring Spain and Britain, is grappling with how to slow the virus’ spread and ease pressure on a once-again strained healthcare system while keeping its 2.3 trillion euro ($2.71 trillion) economy open and protecting jobs.

It reported more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients in intensive care on Monday, a level not seen since late May.

Macron will speak on national television on Wednesday evening and his prime minister, Jean Castex, has refused to rule out local lockdowns.

“Nothing should be off the table when you see the situation facing our hospitals,” Castex told France Info radio on Monday.

Leading newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro reported that curfews in COVID hotspots were one option, a possibility raised last month by the Scientific Council advising the government.

France’s five largest cities - Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Lille - are among nine metropolitan areas already on maximum alert, meaning bars and gyms are closed and restaurants operate under strict sanitary conditions.

Health authority data shows the proportion of COVID tests returned positive has shot up to nearly 12% nationwide. A rate below 5% shows control of the spread, health experts say.

“Everything is being examined, nothing can be ruled out,” Marlene Schiappa, a junior minister in charge of Citizenship, told LCI television when asked about a possible curfew.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Andrew Cawthorne