Coronavirus cases pass half-million mark in France

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker, wearing a protective face mask, works in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated at the Clinique Bouchard-ELSAN private hospital in Marseille, France, September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

PARIS (Reuters) - The number of coronavirus cases in France has passed 500,000, authorities said on Friday after recording a near-record daily jump in infections.

The total number stood at 513,034, health ministry data showed, taking France into a group of just 11 countries with more than half a million cases. The United States has the most with 7 million.

Earlier on Friday, protesters in Marseille demanded President Emmanuel Macron’s government reverse an order to shut down bars and restaurants in France’s second-biggest city, the epicentre of a second wave of COVID-19.

In the past two weeks, France has recorded nearly 150,000 new COVID-19 cases, more than the 132,000 recorded during the two-month lockdown in the spring.

It registered 15,797 new confirmed cases on Friday, just shy of a daily record of 16,096 set a day earlier.

The number of people who have died from the infection jumped by 150 on Friday - triple the daily levels of the past week - to 31,661.

The number of people in hospital with the infection also continued its steady ascent of the past month, rising by 97 to 6,128, with the number of people in intensive care up by 50 to 1,098.

Both hospital numbers are still well below their highs of more than 32,000 and 7,100 respectively set during the peak of the crisis in April.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Diane Craft and Andrew Heavens