France registered 42,619 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the Public Health Authority announced on Saturday.

As many as 194 people died in hospitals, taking the death toll to 94,492.

The number of people who contracted the virus increased by 42,619 to more than 4.5 million.

A total of 27,250 people are being treated at hospitals with 4,791 in intensive care.

The number who have been vaccinated since Dec. 27 now exceeds 7.73 million, including more than 2.67 million who received their second jabs, according to Health Ministry data.

On March 16, the one-year anniversary of France’s first nationwide lockdown, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “The pandemic is playing overtime. We are in what looks like a form of a third wave … characterized by the variants.”

Two days later, Castex took his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine as its administration was resumed nationwide following an eight-day suspension due to safety concerns.

Almost a week later on March 25, the country banned outdoor gatherings of more than six people to stem the spread of the disease.

“The trend is accelerating almost everywhere,” said Health Minister Olivier Veran, who announced restrictive measures in Aube, Nievre, and Rhone, taking the total of semi-confined administrative divisions to 19.

The diagnosis of 45,000 cases was last recorded in October when France announced a second lockdown. Veran, however, refuted the possibility of a third lockdown.

The situation remains most worrying in the northern areas of the Paris region of Ile-de-France and the Hauts-de-France and Provence in the south, which has been witnessing increased hospital admissions.

Admissions to the ICU units include younger patients, many of whom are infected with rapidly spreading variants.

Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.77 million lives in 192 countries and regions.

More than 126.61 million cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries exceeding 71.71 million, according to figures compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

* Writing by Ahmet Gencturk

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