PARIS, June 25 (Xinhua) -- France is launching a "large scale" coronavirus testing campaign to identify any "dormant clusters" and to get ready for a potential resurgence of the epidemic, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday.
Speaking to Le Monde newspaper, Veran said the massive testing campaign will target people who live near previous COVID-19 risk zones and will aim to detect asymptomatic individuals who may be transmitting the virus without knowing it.
As part of the government's post-confinement measures, some 1.3 million people in the Greater Paris region will receive vouchers for virus tests in any public or private laboratory even if they have no symptoms, according to the minister.
"We are in an experimental phase to see if this corresponds to what the French want. The experiment may be extended to other regions later," he said.
Veran said that 250,000-odd tests have already been carried out this week and 99 percent were negative.
When the outbreak began in early March, the French government was unequipped to screen all those who exhibited symptoms and tested only the priority cases.
Since the middle of May, it has increased testing capacity from 150,000 per week to 700,000.
In a bid "to prepare the country" for all eventualities, including a second wave of coronavirus in autumn, the minister decided to prepare at least 12,000 resuscitation beds in hospitals to be able to treat 30,000 patients in intensive care units.
"The peak of March-April is behind us, but we have not finished with the virus. It's necessary to avoid large gatherings and risky behavior," he said.
As of Wednesday, a further 11 patients had succumbed to COVID-19, bringing the total death toll to 29,731.
A total of 9,299 people remain hospitalized, of whom 658 need life support -- a single-day decrease of 24. That was sharply down from 7,000 recorded early April.
Meanwhile, cafes, restaurants and bars throughout the country are reopening, along with swimming pools, museums, libraries, schools and cinemas.
The Eiffel Tower, France's landmark monument, also reopened on Thursday with strict virus restrictions after a shutdown of more than three months.
Its first two floors are accessible via stairs, but the elevators will be out of service until July 1. Wearing a face mask and keeping a 1.5-meter distance remains mandatory throughout the visit.