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France reports new coronavirus clusters amid concerns over laxity

An emergency staff member, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, administers a nasal swab to a patient at a testing site for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) inside a gymnasium in L'Huisserie, near Laval, in Mayenne department, France, July 15, 2020.
An emergency staff member, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, administers a nasal swab to a patient at a testing site for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) inside a gymnasium in L'Huisserie, near Laval, in Mayenne department, France, July 15, 2020. REUTERS - STEPHANE MAHE

France has identified 372 coronavirus clusters since May officials have said, with the number of hospital admissions notably in Paris on the increase. More than half of the new infections were detected through mass testing efforts to identify early outbreaks of the illness.

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"The virus continues to spread in the territory, as shown by the number of new clusters," France's public health agency warned Monday, saying that it had identified 372 coronavirus cases since 9 May.

A third of these clusters remain active, and are situated in zones such as the Ile de France region and Nouvelle Aquitaine, which regroups 12 departments.

Last Thursday, health officials said the number of people in Paris admitted to intensive care for Covid-19 had gone up for the first time since the lockdown was eased.

"Health authorities are particularly concerned about new clusters emerging from private, family or festive gatherings during this summer period," the public health agency added, warning that such behavior could provoke a second coronavirus wave.

Eliminating these clusters has been an important part of France's test, trace and isolate strategy to safely reopen the country.

Mass testing

A cluster is defined by the health body as at least three confirmed or probable cases within a seven day period occurring in the same community or in people who had participated in the same gathering.

Last week, regional health authorities in the Pays de la Loire, an area covering the south of Brittany and Normandy, announced a major "action plan" to massively test 300,000 residents in the department of Mayenne.

The large-scale operation - the first of its kind on a department-wide scale - was launched on Monday.

While testing gets underway, officials continue to count the number of coronavirus deaths.

The latest data from the public health agency shows that 25 more people died from the disease as of Friday 10 July, bringing the total number of fatalities to 30,029 since the start of the outbreak.

The death toll for care homes, currently at 10,476, was due to be upadated on Wednesday evening.

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