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World News

France regaining control over coronavirus but caution still needed - minister

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s health minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday the country was regaining control over the coronavirus but was not ready to ease the second national lockdown imposed to rein in the disease.

FILE PHOTO: French Health Minister Olivier Veran speaks during a press conference to present the details of new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), announced the day before by the president, in Paris, France, October 15, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

After curfew measures applied in major French cities in mid-October failed to produce the results the government had hoped for, it enforced a one-month lockdown on Oct. 30, though it was less strict than the one that ran from March 17 to May 11.

“If we let up our efforts too early, if we are less compliant with the lockdown, we might be subject to a new epidemic surge that would undo all the hard work done by the French people for several weeks,” Veran told BFM TV.

After hitting a peak of 86,852 new infections per day on Nov. 7, the rate has dropped sharply with the total reaching a more than one-month low on Monday, at 9,406.

However, the number of people hospitalised for COVID-19 has reached an all-time high of 33,497, even though the seven-day moving average of additional hospitalisations, presently at 339, has steadily gone down since the beginning of the month, when it peaked at more than 1,000.

These positive trends, acknowledged by Veran on Monday, have led to calls to start loosening the lockdown as soon as possible.

Shop owners want to be allowed to reopen for the Nov. 27-29 “Black Friday” discount weekend. They have been struggling to compete against giant online retailer Amazon, which is continuing operations throughout lockdown.

But Veran dismissed the idea.

“Things are faring better but it is of utmost importance not to change course. I want us to be efficient in the long run,” he said.

With almost two million cases, France has the world’s fourth-highest number of infections, behind the United States, India and Brazil. Its death toll, at 45,054, is the seventh-highest globally.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Ed Osmond

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