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French prime minister urges ‘collective effort’ to halt rise in virus cases as he warns of second wave

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France’s prime minister has urged his people to “act collectively” to prevent a second wave of Covid-19.

Jean Castex warned the public that they were becoming careless following the easing of lockdown restrictions.

He added that France risked seeing another wave of the virus that would be be “hard to control”.

His comments came shortly before French health authorities said new daily infections were up by 1,397 over 24 hours on Tuesday, almost twice as much as the day before.

French prime minister Jean Castex has warned of a second wave (AFP via Getty Images)

“If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control,” Mr Castex said during a visit to a hospital intensive care ward in southern France.

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A health ministry statement also reported 15 new deaths in hospital due the disease, compared with an increase of 16 over a three-day period between Monday and Saturday, with the total death toll standing at 30,354.

France’s seven-day moving average of new infections climbed to 1,691 on Tuesday from 1,056 on July 31. The seven-day measure reached a post lockdown low of 272 on May 27, a little over two weeks after France eased one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.

But as in most neighbouring European countries, new clusters have mushroomed as people let their hair down on holiday, families hold reunions and workers return to offices.

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France is desperate to avoid another full-scale lockdown.

The UK has said it will not hesitate putting more countries on its quarantine list, including France, where hordes of Britons spend their summer vacations.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron held a video conference with top ministers from his Riviera summer retreat.

During the meeting, it was decided France would draw up new restrictions for the 20 largest cities to curb the rising infection rate and that a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be extended until October 31.

France has proposed restrictions on 20 cities (REUTERS)

Some cities have already taken action. On Monday, Paris joined Toulouse, Lille, Biarritz and others in imposing a mandatory face mask order in crowded outdoor zones. They are already compulsory nationwide in shops and banks.

The prime minister said testing was “more than satisfactory”, with over 600,000 tests being conducted weekly, but added more could still be done to target those with symptoms.

Talking of the risk of another lockdown, Mr Castex said: “No one wants to live through that again.”

Later, on a visit to a Mediterranean seaside resort, Mr Castex said he had started talks with employers and unions with a view to making mask-wearing in workplaces as widespread as possible.

Hospitals are not at this stage overwhelmed by the uptick in the disease, as the number treated for the infection fell by 33, to 5,012, after rising on Monday for the first time in 10 weeks. The total of Covid-19 hospitalisations reached a peak of 32,292 on April 14.

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