Fri, 26 Feb 2021

PARIS, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- France on Monday registered 333 new deaths caused by the coronavirus, and the number of hospitalized patients also increased further, official figures showed.

The COVID-19-related death toll now stands at 84,613 in the country. This is the seventh highest toll in the world after the United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, Britain and Italy.

The number of patients hospitalized for the disease increased by 367 to 25,831 in 24 hours, while 3,407 resuscitation beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, 15 more than a day earlier.

To date, the country has confirmed over 3.6 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The number of new confirmed cases dropped to 4,646 on Monday from 22,046 on Sunday, but that was due to the closure of several screening places over the weekend.

Early on Monday, Bernard Gonzalez, prefect of the southern coastal Alpes-Maritimes region, ordered a local lockdown for the next two weekends to contain the contagion.

In order to manage the "very worrying situation," people must stay at home from 6 p.m. on Friday until 6 a.m. on Monday in the next two weekends. A nationwide night-time curfew will remain in force during the rest of the week, he said.

Moreover, checks at airports and at the country's border with Italy will be reinforced, and shopping malls larger than 5,000 square meters that do not sell food products will be closed from Tuesday.

Alpes-Maritimes reported 557 cases per week per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 197 infections at the national level. In Nice, the region's capital, the seven-day incidence rate was at 740 cases.

"The epidemic situation has deteriorated considerably. If we do nothing, the number of infections will increase further," warned Gonzalez. "If the rise in infections continues, it will be necessary to implement new restrictions."

As of Feb. 20, over 2.56 million people had received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in France, and more than 1.15 million citizens completed both shots.

France aims to immunize all citizens above the age of 65 by the end of May and all adults before September. To date, it has received 5,425,830 vaccine doses developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in France and some other countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 251 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 70 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Feb. 19.

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