PARIS - France reported a fresh surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours along with another rise in deaths, according to data published by the country's health ministry on Wednesday. There were a further 16,282 new confirmed cases, up sharply from the 9,155 new cases recorded on Tuesday and 4,452 on Monday, and taking the total number of confirmed cases in France to 2,170,097. The death toll rose to 50,618 - up by more than 380 from the previous day. There were a total of 29,972 patients in hospital with COVID-19, and 4,148 in intensive care units. French President Emmanuel Macron, who this week announced a gradual easing of a national lockdown set up to stop the spread of the virus, wants the daily rate of new cases to drop to around 5,000 per day. On Tuesday, Macron said France will start easing the lockdown this weekend so that by Christmas, shops, theatres and cinemas will reopen and people will be able to spend the holiday with their families. However, French restaurants, cafes and bars would have to stay shut until Jan. 20 to avoid triggering a third wave. France has the seventh-worst COVID-19 death toll in the world. REUTERS
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