French ICU numbers at two-month high

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The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care in French hospitals is at a two-month high.

Health authorities reported there were 3363 people in inteensive care units (ICUs) on Monday, while hospitalisation figures as a whole rose for the second day running.

Unlike some neighbours, France has refrained from imposing a third national lockdown, hoping a curfew in place since December 15 and a vaccination program that has given shots to more than 2 million people will be enough to rein in the spread of the disease.

Some 1.92 million people have received a first injection since the start of the campaign, while 296,265 second injections had been administered to date.

But health officials have continued warnings about the strain being placed on the hospital system and the impact of more contagious variants of the coronavirus.

The local authority for the city of Eaubonne, north of Paris, said earlier on Monday that cases of the South African variant of the virus had been detected and it was starting a track-and-trace campaign.

French health authorities reported 4317 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, down from 19,715 on Sunday and 4347 last Monday.

The seven-day moving average, which evens out daily reporting irregularities, stood at 19,986, a little down versus Sunday but four times higher than the 5000 target on average set by the government in December.

Along with that target, never reached, was the goal of bringing the number of people in ICUs back into a 2500-3000 range.

That figure went as low as 2,582 on January 7 but is now at the highest since December 3.

The number of people in hospital with the virus went up by 343, to 28,037 and the number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections rose by to 458, at 79,423 - the seventh-highest death toll globally - versus 171 on Sunday and a seven-day moving average of 416.