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France's new Covid-19 cases top 20,000 per day for first time since August

PARIS (REUTERS, XINHUA, BLOOMBERG) - France registered more than 20,000 new confirmed coronavirus infections on Wednesday (Nov 17), the first time since Aug 25, as a fifth wave of the epidemic picked up speed.

The Health Ministry reported 20,294 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total to 7.33 million and the seven-day moving average of new cases to more than 12,400.

France's Covid-19 incidence rate - the number of new cases per week per 100,000 people - rose further to 129, although that remained well below those of neighbouring countries such as Germany, Britain and Belgium where the rates are several times higher.

The number of coronavirus patients in French hospitals rose by more than 10 per cent week on week for the second day in a row to 7,663, and the number of patients in intensive care rose to 1,300 - the third day of double-digit week-on-week increases.

France also reported 56 new Covid-19 deaths, taking the total to more than 118,000.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said earlier on Wednesday that France is being hit by a fifth wave of infections but added that no extra restrictive measures are on the agenda for now.

The government hopes that a high vaccination rate will limit the number of people needing hospital care for the disease.

However, the French government's top scientific adviser, Professor Jean-Francois Delfraissy, said on Wednesday that the authorities may have to ask companies once again to make greater use of work-from-home arrangements.

Prof Delfraissy has warned that France will face the acceleration of a fifth wave in the coming weeks.

The immunologist estimated that the fifth wave would be difficult for the French healthcare system since "hospitalisations will rise, up to... 1,200 or even 1,400 new admissions per day, probably at the beginning of December".

France has approved the use of vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and AstraZeneca.

In September, the government announced that people who have received two doses of China's Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines would be eligible to get their health pass after the administration of a complementary dose of an mRNA vaccine.

By Nov 16, a total of 51,582,540 people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in France.

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