French virus cases, patient numbers ease

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France has reported a fall in new COVID-19 infections and the number of patients being treated in hospital, slightly easing health system pressure as the country rolls out shots with a third approved vaccine.

The country registered 20,586 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, down from 22,139 the previous day and marking a third straight daily fall.

Hospitals were treating 27,369 people, down 245 from the previous day in a fourth consecutive daily fall.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care eased to 3225, down 20 from the previous day, data showed.

The government has resisted calls from health experts to impose a new national lockdown but the level of new cases per day has remained relatively steady above 20,000.

The number of people in France who have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has reached 1.86 million, with 247,260 having also received their second dose, the health ministry said.

France has received a batch of COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, with 273,600 doses delivered, the ministry said in an statement.

The initial AstraZeneca shots are being reserved for health personnel under 65, with first injections taking place on Saturday.

A second batch of 304,800 doses will be delivered next week.

AstraZeneca is the third shot to be made available in France after Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

France is relying on the AstraZeneca shot to accelerate a vaccination campaign criticised for a slow start.

However it may obtain fewer deliveries than initially hoped after production setbacks sparked a row between the company and the European Union.

The ministry reported 191 new deaths linked to COVID-19, taking France's cumulative toll in hospitals and nursing homes to 78,794.