France reports 23,852 new COVID-19 cases, 229 deaths

PARIS, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- France on Wednesday confirmed 23,852 infections with COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the biggest one-day tally since Jan. 6, as more infectious variants circulate, posing growing risk of the epidemic rebound, health authorities data showed.

France's cumulative number of infections has grown to 2,830,442, with the coronavirus-related deaths surpassing 69,000 after 229 patients died in one day.

Some 24,769 patients were hospitalized, of whom 2,711 are in intensive care units, up by 32 and 23 respectively.

Early Wednesday, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, the government's top scientific adviser, warned that "the coming three months will be difficult," notably due to the circulation of the highly infectious virus variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

"I am very concerned about this variant... If we do nothing, if a certain number of measures are not taken... very quickly, we will have a spread of the variant," he told France info radio, adding "The question is not to block it, but to slow it down."

Delfraissy expected "the situation will slightly improve during the spring but should really get better at the end of the summer."

About 47 cases of the variant were confirmed in France where the new strain accounted for an estimated 1 percent of the COVID-19 infections, said Health Minister Olivier Veran on Tuesday during a hearing at the parliament.

"One percent today is 50 percent in six weeks, so we must try to slow down this progression as much as possible because once there are 50 percent of the variant among all the cases we see on the territory, the epidemic will unfortunately have become much more difficult to control," said epidemiologist Pascal Crepey on Wednesday on BFM TV.

As of Wednesday, more than 247,000 people in France have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

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

Meanwhile, 236 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 WHO on Tuesday.

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