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France's top scientific body on Tuesday said a second wave of the coronavirus was "highly likely" this autumn or winter as the country grapples with a marked increase of new cases of the disease over the past two weeks.

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"France has the situation under control but it is precarious with a surge of virus circulation this summer. The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population," the scientific committee on the disease said in a statement published by the Health Ministry's website.

"It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter," the statement added.

France could "at any moment" lose control over the spread of the coronavirus, the council warned.

The virus “has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures" since France emerged from a strict two-month lockdown in May.

"The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example," it said.

France has been seeing an uptick in coronavirus infections and hundreds of new clusters in recent weeks, notably as young people gather at cafés or parties and families meet up for summer vacation.

The country has reported 7,000 new cases in the last week, after bringing the virus nearly under control with a strict two-month nationwide lockdown that ran from March 17 to May 11.

Data released by the health department on Monday showed the number of people in intensive care had risen by 13 since Friday, reversing a downward trend observed since April when French people were still under strict stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the virus.

At the height of the outbreak in April, more than 7,100 people were at one point receiving intensive care in French hospitals, which had 5,000 intensive care beds available when the crisis hit.

The country registered thousands of confirmed new infections last week, prompting some cities or regions to impose local restrictions amid reports of people ignoring social distancing and public mask-wearing guidelines.

Rules on wearing masks outdoors took effect in the hardest-hit areas on Monday, the latest move to tighten coronavirus restrictions after a nationwide decree last month required people to wear masks in all indoor public places.

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