Paris- In yet another grim milestone in one of the hardest-hit European countries, France's overall coronavirus death toll has surpassed the 65,000 marks, while the total caseload increased to more than 2.7 million, according to the Health Ministry.
On Sunday, the Ministry registered 116 new fatalities, increasing the nationwide death toll to 65,164, Xinhua news agency reported.
The caseload went up to 2,712,975 after 12,489 new infections were also recorded on Sunday.
Cold weather, gatherings during year-end holidays, return to school scheduled for Monday, and the emergence of virus variants are the main worrying factors, Director General of Health Jerome Salomon said in an interview on Sunday with weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.
The return to class of the pupils who might have traveled with their families across the country will lead to a mixing of people, which "can reshuffle the cards of the epidemiological situation", said Salomon.
"The trend is already worrying" with an incidence rate "on the rise again after a fairly long plateau," a gradual increase in the number of cases since the beginning of December and significant hospital figures which "remain at a high level", he added.
France has detected coronavirus variants first found in Britain and South Africa, he noted, saying that it was also a worrying factor because the variants are "not necessarily more dangerous but clearly more contagious".
Calling on the French to redouble their vigilance, Salomon reiterated that the government's objective is to "get through winter to achieve vaccine efficacy".
In 15 departments where the pandemic indicators are worse than the national average, mostly in the northeast and southeast border areas, the nation-wide curfew from 8.p.m. to 6 a.m. has been brought forward by two hours since Friday.
A week after the vaccination rollout, only hundreds of French, all elderly in nursing homes as they belong to the top priority group under the government's program, have received their first dose.
Local channel BFM TV deplored that the pace was too slow compared to some other European countries where tens of thousands of inhabitants have already been vaccinated.
Facing growing criticism, the government has pledged to accelerate the campaign.
Minister of health Olivier Veran indicated that caregivers over the age of 50 will be able to be vaccinated as of Monday "in centers already having vaccines",
Veran said the first vaccination centers will open in towns "before the beginning of February" to "start vaccinating people aged 75 and over, then 65 and over". (IANS)