France reports nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases, off last week's highs

FILE PHOTO: A patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital in Vannes during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in France, May 6, 2020. Picture taken May 6, 2020. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) - The French health ministry reported 4,982 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up from 3,082 registered on Monday but below the highs of nearly 7,400 seen last week.

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 infections increased by 26 to 30,661 in all, and the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases now totals 286,007.

Ministry data showed that the rise in infections was due not just to more tests being done but also to a higher rate of positive tests, now at 4.3%, compared to 3% in mid-August and 1.5% at the end of July.

With most of the new infections among young people, who typically show few or no symptoms, the surge in infections has not led to major new pressure on the French hospital system so far.

But on Tuesday, the high infection rate started to have an impact on the number of people in hospital with coronavirus, a figure that had been falling nearly without interruption in the past few months to reach a low of 4,530 on Saturday.

It rose by 22 to 4,604 on Tuesday, a third consecutive daily increase. The number of people in intensive care units also rose again by 15 to 424, the fifth consecutive increase.

The number of people in ICU is now back at late July levels, though still far below the peak of 7,148 seen on April 8.

More than 12 million French children returned to school on Tuesday after having been out of class for more than five months because of the lockdown and summer holidays.

Children over the age of 11 must wear a mask in class. People returning to work after long months of home working also have to wear a mask at their workplace, both in offices and factories, at all times.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Heinrich