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Coronavirus in France: New cases jump to over 4,700 as measures tighten

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An accordionist wearing a face mask performs in the Montmartre district Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 in Paris.
An accordionist wearing a face mask performs in the Montmartre district Monday, Aug. 10, 2020 in Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michel Euler
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The number of new COVID-19 cases shot up in France to more than 4,700 on Thursday while Spanish authorities warned that "things are not going well".

France's public health agency said that 4,771 people had been found to have been infected with COVID-19 on Thursday. The country had not seen the number of cases jump over the 4,000 threshold since May.

It also represented a massive increase on the previous day when 3,776 cases were recorded.

The sharp rise is partly being explained by an increase in testing but the rate of positive tests is now at 3.3 per cent, up from 2.3 per cent on August 13.

France imposed a very strict lockdown in mid-March to derail the spread of the virus but was nonetheless one of Europe's hardest-hit country. More than 30,400 people have lost their lives to SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — in France since the beginning of the pandemic while nearly 230,000 infections have been recorded.

The government accelerated its easing of lockdown restrictions in early June due to better-than-anticipated indicators. Since then, face masks have been made mandatory in all indoor public areas and the resurgence in cases over the past few weeks have led several major cities including Paris, Marseille, Toulouse and Lille to extend the rule to crowded outdoor spaces.

Across the Pyrenees, more than 3,300 new cases were recorded for the second day in a row on Thursday, prompting health ministry's emergencies coordinator Fernando Simón to say: "nobody should be in any doubt, things are not going well."

"We cannot let the situation elude us again," he added, warning that although most new cases are asymptomatic, hospitals could soon be overwhelmed if the trend continues.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Spain has Europe's highest COVID-19 incidence rate. Its 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 population is currently at 138.7 — nearly triple the French rate of 46.3.

Spain's COVID-19 death toll has meanwhile risen to 28,813 after 122 lost their lives over the past seven days — double the number who succumbed to the disease in the previous week.

The authorities shut down nightclubs to curb the surge in new infections and have banned smoking in the street if social distancing of at least two metres cannot be respected. Face masks are also mandatory outdoors.

Germany also recorded its highest daily number of new infections in weeks this week. The Robert Koch Institute revealed on Thursday morning that 1,707 cases had been recorded over the previous 24 hours.

It attributed some of the increase on people returning from abroad, especially from Turkey and Croatia. The government has since two Croatian coastal regions to its list of "high-risks" areas, meaning people arriving in Germany from these destinations will have to self-isolate for 14 days and undergo testing.