No respite from France's COVID measures in next 4-6 weeks

French Health Minister Olivier Veran, wearing a protective face mask, visits a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center at the Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie (France's local health insurance funds - CPAM) in Bobigny near Paris as part of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in France, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) - France will retain its current measures aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, including a nighttime curfew, as a bare minimum for the next four to six weeks, its health minister said on Monday.

Other measures now in force include the closure of bars, restaurants and museums, and Olivier Veran said he hoped France would not have to go beyond those measures to rein in the disease.

"The curfew and the current measures will be a minimum for the next four to six weeks", Veran said on France 2 television.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said last week a new lockdown was not on the agenda but that the government would see this week whether local weekend lockdowns might be needed in 20 areas considered very worrying, including Paris and the surrounding region.

French health authorities earlier on Monday reported that the number of people being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) for COVID-19 had risen by 52 to 3,544, exceeding the 3,500 level for the first time since Dec. 1, 2020.

Officials reported 4,703 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, up slightly from last Monday's 4,646 and compared with 19,952 on Sunday.

But France typically registers a low number of new cases the day after the weekend and the seven day moving average stood at 21,549, remaining above the 21,000 limit for the sixth day running.

France's COVID death toll rose by 375 to 86,803, the seventh-highest death toll globally. This compares with a rise of 122 on Sunday and a seven-day moving average of 313.

At 3.761 million, France's tally of COVID cases is the sixth highest on the world.

(Reporting by Bertrand Boucey and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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