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France has recorded more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths, with the number of infections from the pandemic quickly approaching 200,000. The Health Ministry has published a worrying report, warning that while COVID-19 is is under control, for now, it “could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control”. The report from the country’s top scientific committee comes after a huge spike in new coronavirus cases, with more than 7,000 new infections officially recorded over the last week.
There has also been a significantly sharp rise in the number of people being treated for the deadly disease in intensive care.
The scientific committee warned the direction in which coronavirus takes in France “lies in the hands” of the country’s 67 million people.
It also warns of the probability of a second wave of coronavirus infections “this autumn or winter”.
The report said: “The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population.
“It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter.”
The statement also warned coronavirus “has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures” since France began easing strict two-month lockdown measures in May.
The report added: “The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example.”
The increasing fears of a second coronavirus wave has seen French authorities quickly tighten public hygiene rules, with cites such as Lille, Nice and Toulouse ordering people to wear masks in busy pedestrian streets.
Paris could soon follow, after French newspaper Le Monde reported Mayor Anne Hidalgo has submitted a formal request to state authorities to make masks mandatory in shopping streets, the banks of the river Seine and parks and gardens.
The French Government is also coming under fire over its coronavirus testing policy after huge queues flowed out of testing centres in Paris and other sites across the country.
On July 25, a decree was announced to make testing free-of-charge and without prescription.
A Health Ministry spokesman said France is now testing around 576,000 per week, compared with 200,000 when President Emmanuel Macron began easing one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns in May.
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He acknowledged there have been some “localised problems” but was adamant France is following the right strategy.
Health Minister Oliver Veran also insisted the strategy is working, and told French newspaper Le Parisien: “The virus is no longer tracking us, we are tracking it.”
But Epidemiologist Didier Pittet, who heads a Government-appointed task force monitoring the handling of COVID-19, told Europe 1 radio: “Testing anyone achieves nothing. You have to be targeted.”
Emmanuel Macron is currently on holiday at his summer residence of Bregan on the Mediterranean coast.
He visited the nearby port city of Toulon to meet social workers looking after older people, and reiterated the importance of following safety guidelines as “the virus is still circulating in our country”.
The French President said: “It’s important to continue to respect guidelines against kissing and shaking hands, to wear masks, wash your hands with antibacterial gel, and be careful when the grandchildren come to visit, because the virus is still circulating in our country.”
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