France sees further fall in COVID-19 hospitalizations as lockdown exit starts

PARIS, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 hospitalizations in France further declined on Saturday as the country started a three-stage lockdown exit.

A total of 28,168 COVID-19 patients remained in hospitals, down by 480, consolidating a downward trend reported since mid-November. Meanwhile, 3,777 patients are in intensive care, compared to 3,883 on Friday, according to official data.

A further 12,580 people tested positive in one day, driving the cumulative number of infections up to 2,208,699, including 52,127 fatalities, with 213 new deaths reported in the past 24 hours.

On Saturday, France started the first phase of its three-stage reopening strategy. All non-essential shops resumed their activities under strict health protocol: providing at least 8 square meters of shop floor for each client, one-way circulation and sufficient ventilation.

Indoor religious services with 30 worshippers are allowed. People can go out for exercises for up to three hours a day and within a 20-kilometer radius of their homes instead of one kilometer and only for an hour. They, however, should continue to sign a document to go out.

The second stage of the government's plan to return to normalcy is scheduled for Dec. 15 if the number of daily COVID-19 cases is brought to under 5,000 per day.

The confinement will then be lifted, but a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew will apply to the whole country except on Dec. 24 and 31. Theaters and museums will reopen provided they reinforce the health protocol.

Restaurants, bars, cafes and gyms would have to stay shut until Jan. 20 to avoid the virus resurgence.

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