Increases are stoking concerns among doctors and policymakers in countries still reeling from the pandemic’s first surge.

PARIS — Cases of the coronavirus are spiking in France, Spain and the United Kingdom even as social distancing restrictions ease, stoking concerns among doctors and policymakers about a “second wave” in countries still reeling from the pandemic’s first wave.

France set a record Friday after health authorities reported 8,975 new cases, far higher than the previous record of 7,578, which the was set March 31 at the height of the pandemic.

In the U.K., new infections soared to nearly 3,000 in one day — the country’s biggest jump since May. And Spain had nearly 9,000 new cases Thursday.

Outside Europe, India displaced Brazil to take second place after the United States in terms of coronavirus infections, with 90,082 new cases whose numbers are expected to grow.

Unlike the pandemic’s punishing first round in the spring, France’s troubling rise in new cases has yet to cause a significant surge in deaths and hospitalizations, a salutary statistic for policymakers who remain determined to press ahead with reopenings of schools and businesses.

“For the moment, the important number is the number of sick persons, and the number of sick people is not increasing,” Laurent Toubiana, a leading epidemiologist at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, said. “The number of deaths are not increasing. So, we shouldn’t be getting worked up.”

There are fewer than 500 COVID-19 cases in French intensive care wards — down from about 8,000 at the height of the crisis, according to the French government.

Download the NBC News app for the latest news on the coronavirus

Toubiana and other European health officials credit increased testing — France has just introduced free, rapid testing nationwide — for the abrupt increase in new cases.

The new testing has sparked a statistical increase in patients with mild or no symptoms, many of them younger, healthy people such as Feyrouz Hassam, 30, a PR manager at an advertizing agency, and her friend Alain Jaber, 28, her boyfriend who is a model.

The two took tests last week at a crowded free testing center in central Paris despite neither suffering from symptoms. The testing site, housed in a large tent in front of Paris’s stately Hôtel de Ville, is among seven such centers in the French capital.

Dr. Christophe Chevassu, a general practitioner for SOS Medecin, said the center administers about 700 tests each day, mostly to young people. Hassam’s boss had asked her to take the test after one of her colleagues tested positive, while Jaber sought a test simply because “it’s simple.”

Author: Matt Bradley and Nancy Ing

Source: NBC News : Coronavirus spikes in Spain, France and U.K. raise specter of second wave