Health authorities in France have warned that new coronavirus infections were rising fastest among younger people.
It comes as the French government declared Paris and Marseilles high-risk zones for coronavirus and granted authorities there powers to impose localised restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
The country has seen a sharp increase in infections over the past fortnight, reporting more than 2,500 new cases for the second day in a row on Thursday. Such high levels of infections have not been seen since mid-April during the height of national lockdown.
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The French health ministry’s public health arm, Santé Publique, said the infection rate in the week beginning 3 August was fastest among people aged 15 to 44, adding it was a “troubling situation”.
Data from the agency showed the incidence rate of Covid-19 in the 20 to 29 age group rose to nearly 45 per 100,000 people, over six times the rate it was in early May.
The incidence rate also rocketed to 26.5 from 6.1 (per 100,000) among those aged 30 to 39. Last month, France’s health minister Olivier Véran confirmed the newer positive cases were “younger than during the previous wave” of coronavirus.
He said this suggested that “people in more vulnerable groups have doubtless remained more prudent” while younger people “tend to pay less attention”.
Experts warned that a more blasé attitude towards virus control measures, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, was resulting in rising numbers of Covid-19 cases across the continent.
Richard Peabody, an epidemiologist leading the High Threat Pathogens Team at the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe, called on European governments to take note of the lessons learned when the pandemic first hit.
Prime Minister Jean Castex urged French citizens to stay vigilant on Tuesday, adding: “If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control.”
On Thursday night, the UK added France to its travel quarantine list, which meant travellers arriving from France after 4am on Saturday will be required to quarantine for two weeks.
France joins Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Bahamas on the travel quarantine list. The Netherlands and four other countries will also be added to the list from 4am on Saturday.
Additional reporting by agencies