France sees nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases, 281 deaths in one day

PARIS, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- France's health authorities on Friday registered another 19,814 COVID-19 cases, down from Thursday's 21,703 but well above the government's target of 5,000 daily cases to ease restrictions.

In its daily update, Public Health Agency also counted 281 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total fatalities to 67,431.

In the last seven days, 8,483 people were hospitalized, 1,313 of them in intensive care units, the agency added.

The country has a cumulative total of 2,747,135 infections since the pandemic broke out.

The agency warned that "the epidemic is not weakening and the indicators remain at a high level," noting that the number of cases rose by 17 percent last week with an average of 13,820 infections per day.

"The trend over the next two weeks will be decisive for a possible rebound in the epidemic," it said.

With no end of the gloom in sight, the French government decided to keep museums, cinemas and music halls closed until the end of January. It had initially planned to reopen cultural venues on Jan. 7.

Restaurants, bars and cafes -- all forced to shut down when the country entered into its second lockdown on Oct. 30 -- are not allowed to resume activities until mid-February at the earliest, instead of Jan. 20.

Another 10 departments in eastern France would be placed under an earlier night-time curfew starting at 6 p.m. The government has already implemented the same rule in 15 departments, mostly in the worst-hit northeast and southeast.

Amid a race to cure, French National Authority for Health (HAS) on Friday approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the American firm Moderna. It's the second of its kind greenlighted by the HAS, following the Pfizer/BioNTech one.

More than 80,000 older people and health workers have been inoculated this week, said Health Minister Olivier Veran in a Twitter message.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 235 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 63 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 6.

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