France Nears All-Time High for New Coronavirus Cases As Spain Sees Faster Spread Than U.S.

New coronavirus cases in France have reached a near all-time high, with over 7,000 cases reported on Wednesday. This follows news that cases had surged by almost 50 percent in August compared to July, with over 281,000 cases recorded compared with almost 188,000 a month earlier.

The French Ministry of Health said 7,017 cases were recorded Wednesday. This is just under 500 cases fewer than the country's biggest daily record on March 31 when 7,578 cases were reported.

Despite most of the new cases being found in young people who have not been severely affected by the disease, hospitalizations are now starting to rise. According to Reuters, the number of people needing hospital treatment increased for the fifth day in a row on Wednesday—an increase not seen since April.

The spike in cases in France follows an uptick in cases in neighboring Spain, which reported over 8,000 new cases Tuesday and a further 8,500 on Wednesday. According to the New York Times tracker, coronavirus in Spain is now spreading faster than any other country in Europe. It is also spreading faster than in the U.S., with 18 cases per 100,000 compared with 13 per 100,000.

Authorities have put restrictions on movements in the cities of Salamanca and Valladolid in a bid to limit spread, but have not instructed another full lockdown. Spain's health minister Salvador Illa appeared to downplay the severity of the situation the country is facing in a radio broadcast Thursday.

"We're seeing an increase in cases, but there's no comparison with what we saw in March; the system isn't overwhelmed," he told Cadena Ser Catalunya radio, according to The Guardian. "We need to take concrete measures and we are." At its peak in March, Spain had over 8,200 cases in a single day.

Illa said Madrid, which is one of the worst affected regions in the latest outbreak with over 18,000 cases in the last seven days, would not be isolated to prevent further spread. "To be totally clear and honest, a lockdown of Madrid's perimeters isn't going to happen."

Cases in France started to rise at the start of August and have progressively increased throughout the month. At the start of that month, health authorities had warned a second wave was "highly likely" over the autumn and winter.

"The situation is precarious and we could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control, like in Spain," a statement from August 4 from the French scientific committee said, according to Reuters.

The spike in cases in France comes as schools there prepare to reopen. It also comes as the government unveils a 100 billion euro ($117.5bn) stimulus package in a bid to relaunch the economy. The plan has been dubbed "France Reboot" and the total fund equates to around 4 percent of the gross domestic product.

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A cyclist passing the Eiffel Tower on August 4. Cases in France have increased significantly over the last month. Kiran Ridley/Getty Images