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Number of COVID patients in French intensive care units highest in nearly five months

A doctor, wearing a protective mask and a protective suit, works in a pulmonology unit at the hospital in Vannes where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated, France, October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - The number of people being treated in French intensive care units for COVID-19 exceeded 1,500 on Monday for the first time since May 27, authorities said, raising fears of local lockdowns being imposed across the country.

The new figure of 1,539 is still almost five times lower than an April 8 high of 7,148 but also four times higher than a July 31 low of 371.

And as there are normally more people hospitalised with varios illnesses in the autumn than in the spring, health experts fear the hospital system will be quickly overwhelmed if nothing is done to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jean Castex said France was facing a “strong” second wave of COVID-19 infections and that he could not rule out local lockdowns.

President Emmanuel Macron is due to speak about the public health situation in television interviews on Wednesday evening.

There were 8,505 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours in France, data showed, sharply down from Saturday’s record of 26,896 and Sunday’s 16,101.

But the Monday figure tends to dip as fewer tests are conducted on Sundays. The seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, stood at 17,029, above the 17,000 level for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March.

The cumulative number of cases now totals 743,479.

The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections rose by 95 to 32,825, versus 46 on Sunday and a seven-day moving average of 75.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Chris Reese and Gareth Jones