More than 10,500 coronavirus cases were reported in France on Saturday, a new daily record. The previous record of 9,843 infections was set just two days previously.
The grim number – 10, 561 – serves to underscore the resurgence of the virus in France, as countries across the continent also grapple with growing caseloads and numbers admitted to hospital.
French health health authorities reported that 772 clusters were being investigated, an increase of 86 in the past 24 hours.
Over the past week, 2,432 people have been admitted to hospital with the virus, including 417 who are in intensive care.
The death toll in hospitals and nursing homes rose by 17 to 30,910 over the past day.
In response to Thursday’s record rise in new cases, France’s government outlined additional measures to avert a return to the general lockdown put in place earlier in the year.
Prime minister Jean Castex promised steps to speed up tests and toughen local measures in high-infection zones.
France’s testing capacity last week rose to 1 million per week, compared with just a fraction of that at the start of the pandemic. It has carried out less than 6 million tests in total since the virus first hit.
Mr Castex, who came out of self-isolation on Saturday after coming into contact with someone infected with the virus, said the pandemic in France is "obviously worsening".
“For the first time in many weeks, we are noting a substantial increase in the number of hospitalised people,” Mr Castex said on Friday.
And in Marseille, which has emerged as a hotspot, doctors sounded the alarm after all 70 intensive care beds in the city and the surrounding Bouches-du-Rhone region became occupied by Tuesday.
The number of ICU virus patients in the region has doubled in the past 10 days and now surpasses 100.
The region’s hospitals are re-activating emergency measures put in place when the pandemic first hit, and having run out of space have been forced to put people in units meant for non-virus patients instead.
“In March, April and May we were able to absorb the epidemic wave by abandoning other hospital care activities, and today what is at stake is being able to continue treating every other patient while being able to face the epidemic,” Laveran Military Training Hospital’s chief doctor told The Associated Press, describing it as a battle on two fronts.
On the whole, French authorities say they’re better-prepared this time than in March, when infections quickly skyrocketed and the military intervened to transport patients and build France’s first-ever peacetime field hospital.
France’s rise in cases has been subject to comparisons across the Channel, where the UK is witnessing daily infections on a level not seen since May.
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty held France up as an example not to follow as he lent further justification for Boris Johnson’s new “rule of six” restrictions.
Aided by graphs showing case numbers in the UK, France, Spain and Belgium, Professor Whitty said: "What you can see is we're following a pattern extremely similar to the one France followed, and in France that rate has continue to go up. The same is true in Spain.
"But in Belgium the same sort of graph was happening but then they took decisive action and at that point rates stabilised and started to come down.
“It's clear indication that if you act rapidly and decisively when these changes are happening there's a good chance of bringing the rates back down under control.”
His comments were echoed by former chief scientific adviser Sage member Sir Mark Walport as he warned the UK was "on the edge of losing control" of the virus.
“You've only got to look across the Channel to see what's happening in France, what's happening in Spain,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:
He added: "The short answer is the only way to stop the spread of this infection is to reduce the number of people we all come into contact with, that lowers the risk.
"It's a very, very fine balancing act, it's very important to get youngsters back to school, people to university, but it means we're going to have to hold back our contacts in other areas."
The professor said he was "definitely" still working from home, adding: "Where people can work from home, there's an extremely strong argument that they should do so."
Additional reporting by agencies
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