PARIS, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) — France on Wednesday registered 16,282 new COVID-19 cases and 381 deaths in a 24-hour span, while pressure on the country’s health services continued to ease, health authorities said.

Since the start of the pandemic, 2,170,097 people have been infected with the virus, and 50,618 of them have died. France now ranks fourth in the number of total COVID-19 cases after the United States, India and Brazil.

As of Wednesday, 29,972 COVID-19 patients had been hospitalized (down 650 from Tuesday), confirming a downward trend reported since mid-November. Of the hospitalized, 4,148 are in intensive care, down 141 in the past 24 hours.

On Tuesday evening, President said that the peak of the pandemic’s second wave had passed, allowing a gradual return to normalcy starting on Nov. 28. Non-essential shops will reopen. People will be allowed to spend a longer time outdoors, and indoor in-person worship in churches will be limited to 30 people.

The country-wide confinement in force since Oct. 30 will be lifted on Dec. 15 provided that new infections remain below 5,000 per day. Cinemas, theaters and museums will then be allowed to reopen under strict health protocols.

Meanwhile, a nationwide 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew will remain in force, except on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Restaurants, bars, cafes and gyms would have to stay shut until Jan. 20, 2021.

The president warned that “the return to normal is not for tomorrow … We must continue our efforts.”

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 12, there were 212 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 48 of them were in clinical trials. Enditem

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