French COVID-19 intensive care numbers down for first time in two weeks

FILE PHOTO: People, wearing protective face masks, walk at Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - The number of people with coronavirus in French intensive care units fell by 16 to 2,896 in data released on Saturday, the first decline in two weeks after a period of sharp rises.

The number of people in intensive care is a key measure of a health system’s ability to cope with the pandemic.

The government has said it wanted that figure to hold steady between 2,500 and 3,000 before considering loosening curfew restrictions, but it had been increasingly steadily since early January.

The health ministry also reported 23,924 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, up from 23,292 on Friday and 21,406 last Saturday. France’s cumulative number of cases stands at 3.04 million.

The daily tally of COVID-19 deaths in hospitals fell to 230 from 319 on Friday.

Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted earlier on Saturday that France had now vaccinated one million people against the disease.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Heavens