“Indicators used for tracking the epidemic on French territory have clearly worsened in recent days,” the health ministry's DGS public health division said in a statement.
Of 600,000 tests over the past week more than 11,600 were positive, according to the DGS.
This represented an increase of the rate of weekly positives from 1.6 percent last week to 2.2 this week, which the DGS said confirmed an “increased viral circulation.”
Another French Covid update. Big increase in the number of confirmed cases in the 24hrs to 2pm today – 2,524 compared to the 1,500 or so average of recent days.
— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) August 12, 2020
Health officials identified 18 new virus clusters in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 896 nationwide.
The number of patients in intensive care dropped slightly to 379, a level relatively steady since late July.
There were 18 new deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 30,371.
France has seen confirmed cases rising the last three weeks and health authorities have raised concerns about high levels of clusters in several areas of France.
Health authorities say the spike in cases these weeks was not solely due to the ramping up of national testing capacity over the past months, from around 200,000-230,000 tests a week over the course of June, to around 400,000 tests per week in July, up to the current 600,000.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said the hike in new cases could “partly” be explained by the increased testing.
“We are conducting 100,000 more tests each week, compared to the previous week,” he told France 2 on Wednesday evening.
“I am saying only partly because the positivity rate of tests is increasing. There was 1 percent positive tests a few weeks ago, today we have exceeded 2 percent, so it's not just the increase in the number of tests that explains it,” the health minister said.
French prime minister Jean Castex on Tuesday announced extra health measures to try and contain the spread.
August is a month when many French people take weeks of summer holiday, and the DGS said “it's imperative that we keep up our efforts to avoid the epidemic picking up again, individually and collectively, everywhere and at all times.”
Almost 30,400 people have died of coronavirus in France since the epidemic began, the third-heaviest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.