French COVID-19 situation serious but encouraging signs after local lockdowns

PARIS (Reuters) -The situation in French hospitals remains "serious" but France is starting to see some signs of improvement in regions where it imposed a lockdown a few weeks ago, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Thursday.

"We have the first encouraging signs in the 16 departments where we had imposed restriction measures," Attal told a news conference following a meeting of French government ministers.

France is now hoping a ramp up of its vaccination campaign, combined with the month-long nationwide lockdown in place since last weekend, expanding upon some regional restrictions, will help it regain control over the latest outbreak.

Nonetheless, Attal said the number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 was likely to go up in the coming days.

The health ministry said on Wednesday that 5,729 people were being treated in intensive care for the disease, a 2021 record.

The ministry also reported 433 new deaths in French hospitals and said more than 13 million people had now been vaccinated, including 9.8 million with a first shot.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Matthieu Protard;Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Alison Williams)

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