PARIS (Reuters) -New COVID-19 cases in France saw the lowest week-on-week increase since early March on Monday, but pressure on hospitals remained high as the number of coronavirus patients rose above 6,000 again for the first time since spring 2020.

New cases were up by 3.92% compared to a week ago as week-on-week increases continued their steady decline from more than six percent mid-April.

Week-on-week increases have been below 4% only briefly in February, and before that in December, following France’s second lockdown in November.

President Emmanuel Macron had said at the end of November – when France had about 15,000 new cases per day – that lockdown conditions could be eased if daily new infections fell to 5,000.

But after dipping to 10,000 early December, the number of daily new infections has increased steadily, with the seven-day moving average of new infections now at just below 30,000.

On Monday – a day when data reporting usually lags due to the weekend – the health ministry reported 5,952 new cases, taking the total to 5.5 million.

The government will lift limits on domestic travel from early May and is considering reopening museums and cultural venues, but many doctors say the infection rate is still way too high to start easing control measures.

The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 rose by 23 to 6,001 on Monday, the first time the ICU tally was over 6,000 since April 17, 2020. The overall number of COVID-19 patients in hospital remained well above 30,000, where it has been since early this month.

France also reported 398 new COVID-19 deaths in hospitals, compared to a gliding weekly average of just under 300.

Schools reopened on Monday after a three-week closure and Macron said open-air bar and restaurant terraces may reopen around mid-May, but indoor venues will not reopen before June and only in regions where the virus circulation drops.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Geert De ClercqEditing by Gareth Jones)

FILE PHOTO: A medical staff member, wearing protective gear, works in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated at the hospital in Valenciennes, France, April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol