The southern city of Nice banned public gatherings of more than 10 people and restricted bar opening hours on Friday as France public health agency reported a record daily spike in infections and warned that deaths from Covid-19 are rising again for the first time since a nationwide lockdown was lifted.
France on Friday registered 13,215 new infections, its highest daily count since the start of the pandemic and a significant increase from the 10,593 recorded a day earlier.
While the recent surge in cases mostly affected the young, infections are now growing fast among the over-75s, the health agency said in its weekly update.
Admissions to hospital and intensive care wards are also increasing, the agency added, warning that all coronavirus indicators are now worsening.
“For the first time since the lifting of the lockdown, we are seeing an increase in Covid-19 deaths,” the agency said, adding that 265 people had died from the virus this week compared with 129 last week.
“The intensification of the spread of the virus among the oldest age group raises fears of the continuation of hospitalisations and deaths in the weeks to come,” it said.
Overall infections this week were down slightly from the previous week, though the agency warned that this was likely an “underestimate” of infections due to saturation of testing capacity in certain regions.
There is growing concern in France about how hard it is to get a coronavirus test — especially in the Paris region — due to demand. Prime Minister Jean Castex admitted last week it had to do better.
“Not being able to test people (who may need quarantine)… may have an impact on the control of the outbreak,” said Daniel Levy-Bruhl, head of the respiratory infections unit at the agency.
France’s government has been criticised for its failure to authorise quick saliva tests for the virus, instead insisting on nasal tests that can take days to produce results because of backlogs in saturated French labs.
Saliva tests, which are common in other countries, finally obtained regulatory approval by France’s drug watchdog on Friday and are expected to be rolled out soon.
Despite the surge in infections, Castex last week steered clear of announcing new nationwide restrictions, saying the French should use caution and “succeed in living with this virus”.
Instead, Health Minister Olivier Véran announced that local curbs would be imposed in the worst-hit cities, including Lyon and Marseille.
Nice-PSG behind closed doors
The French Riviera city of Nice, still basking in a late Mediterranean summer, announced new curbs on Friday including a maximum of 10 people allowed to gather in its parks and on its beaches.
It will be forbidden to buy or consume alcohol in public in the city after 8:00 pm while bars can no longer open all night. The local football club also announced it was abandoning plans to admit fans for the home clash against Paris Saint-Germain this weekend.
Nice had hoped to admit 5,000 fans on Sunday, but the club said that it “regrets to inform its public that the match against Paris Saint-Germain will be played behind closed doors”. On Thursday, Marseille hosted Saint-Etienne in front of only 1,000 spectators after also having initially hoped to admit 5,000.