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On Wednesday, France’s health ministry said a further 998 new confirmed COVID-19 cases had been recorded over the past 24 hours, heightening concerns about new flare-ups of the epidemic. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases now stands at 178,336 – the fifth highest in Europe. A further seven people died in the most recent 24-hour period, with the death toll increasing to 30,172. Fears over a second wave have increased after the Directorate General of Health warned “the circulation of the virus is increasing” after France recorded 208 currently active coronavirus outbreaks on Tuesday.
Since May 9, a total of 547 clusters have been detected, a figure the President of the Scientific Council responsible for advising the French Government described as “worrying”.
The coronavirus reproduction rate, simply known as “R”, has surged above 1 for the first time since the beginning of this month to now stand at 1.2, according to Public Health France.
This means each COVID-19 patient will infect an average of 1.2 other people, which is in line with a trend of increasing circulation of the virus.
France is in a panic about signs coronavirus is flaring up again in several areas throughout the country, particularly in western and southern France.
Since July 21, the country has made face coverings compulsory in shops and other enclosed public spaces.
Health Minister Olivier Veran told France 2 television on Wednesday the Government would supply seven million French people living in poverty with 40 million re-usable face masks free of charge.
Speaking specifically about the Mayenne, which has been one of the main sources for coronavirus, Directorate General of Health said the north west department of France remains in “high vulnerability”.
The Directorate General said: “The epidemiological situation is changing with a high incidence and positivity rate for tests.
“This situation shows the strong evolutionary potential that remains when the virus continues to circulate and the transmission conditions are favourable.”
But Health Minister Véran insisted: “We have rather good news in Mayenne with the reduction in the positivity of the number of tests, that is to say that out of 100 tests, we had up to eight to nine positive results at the beginning, then five, now it’s three.”
Despite the increase in coronavirus clusters, he insisted there are “no worrying figures” in terms of hospitalisation, and “at this stage, we are very far away from the second wave”.
The prefect of the western Brittany department of Finistère said the situation there is “under control, even after warning of a “fairly rapid development” of coronavirus, describing it as “a source of concern”.
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The R rate there is 3.1 percent, according to Santé Publique France – a massive upsurge from the national average of 1.2 percent.
He said: “The main vector of dissemination of the virus is still the mixing of the population because of holidays”, with a strong “tourist pressure”.
The Finistère prefect added this development is the result of “the emergence of sporadic cases, not on a large scale”.
But despite the attempt to play down the seriousness of the situation in Finistère, fears are growing a second wave of coronavirus could soon be on its way.
Jean-Paul Mongeat, departmental delegate of the Regional Health Agency (ARS) Brittany, warned: “The situation is worrying because we are witnessing an upsurge in the number of confirmed cases.”
Fears of a new outbreak are also intensifying in Grand-Est, a region in northeastern France, where the number of new cases almost doubled week-on-week.
Michel Vernay, epidemiologist and head of Public Health France in the Grand Est, said: “From July 13 to 19, we observed 298 new cases diagnosed in the region, whereas the previous week we had only had 156.
“Very clearly, cases doubled last week.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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