France could see a runaway spread of coronavirus, "at any moment" the government's COVID-19 scientific council warned on Tuesday as official data showed the first rise in intensive care patients since April. This in part due to reduced vigilance in terms of social distancing and mask-wearing.
In its seventh opinion prepared for the government on the handling of Covid-19, the council warned "the virus has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures" since France emerged from a strict two-month lockdown in May.
"The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example," it said.
The council warned of a possible "resumption of circulation of the virus at a high level" by autumn 2020, insisting that large cities should prepare for localized lockdowns.
"The future of the epidemic is largely in the hands of the citizens," the council warned.
Intensive care sees rise in number of patients
Data released by the health department on Monday showed the number of people in intensive care had risen by 13 since Friday (384 in total), breaking the downward trend observed since April, at the height of the lockdown.
Twenty-nine new deaths were reported over the same period, bringing the country's total death toll to 30,294.
At the peak of the outbreak in April, there were more than 7,100 people in intensive care in French hospitals, which had 5,000 intensive care beds available when the crisis hit.
The scientific council also criticised the slow speed of tracing, testing and isolating positive cases of the virus and called in the government to improve access to screening which has become difficult due a high demand.
54% increase in cases
The country registered a 54 percent increase in the number of infections in the week of 20-26 July (5,592 in total), pushing the daily number of new cases over 1,000 by the 30 July, according to the public health body - Sante Publique France.
This has prompted some cities or regions to impose local restrictions such as mask-wearing in outdoor public spaces. (link)
Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday urged France "not to let down its guard" in the fight against the coronavirus in order to prevent a new national lockdown.