MELUN, France - France is not planning to put the Paris region into lockdown even though the number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care is at its highest since November, public health director Jerome Salomon said on Tuesday.

Medical authorities in the Paris region, which accounts for about one-sixth of France's population, ordered hospitals on Monday to cancel 40% of their regular activities to make space for critical COVID-19 patients.

But Salomon told RTL radio: "A lockdown in the greater Paris region is not on the agenda."

"Lockdown is a last resort measure that would be submitted to the government and the president if we were under the impression the hospital system could not cope," he said.

The number of people treated in intensive care units for COVID-19 in France reached a 14-1/2-week-high on Monday at 3,849. The figure was almost 1,000 for the Paris region.

At Melun Hospital Centre, about 50 km (31 miles) southeast of Paris, staff said they were at full stretch trying to monitor all the COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit.

"With intensive care beds, in our region, and in certain other regions, we're starting to be close to capacity," said Dr. Moncef Monchi, head of the intensive care unit.

In one of the intensive care bays at the hospital on Monday, Dr Esther Mbakallu was intubating a patient under sedation -- inserting a breathing tube that will pump extra oxygen into his airway. She said his condition had worsened so he needed mechanical help to breathe.

"He was scared," she said of the patient before he was sedated to have the tube inserted. "There are rumours going around that patients who are intubated die, so he had that apprehension. I reassured him."

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten in Paris and Antony Paone in Melun, France; Editing by Timothy Heritage) ((; +33149495339;))