France has agreed to give its health care workers a pay raise in thanks for their efforts to contain COVID-19.

After seven weeks of negotiations between the French government and unions, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the agreement to provide $8.5 billion (7.5 billion euros) in raises, averaging about $208 (183 euros) a month for nurses and healthcare workers.

"No one can deny that this is a historic moment for our health system," Castex said after a signing ceremony. "This is first of all recognition of those who have been on the front line in the fight against this epidemic."

The move comes as France is using Bastille Day to honor nurses, ambulance drivers, supermarket cashiers and others whose services have been vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The celebrations. while closed to the public for fear of spreading the virus, are being broadcast on television.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to show off France's successes in combating the disease, which has been described as the country's worst crisis since World War II.

France has had nearly 210,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 30,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. However, the number of daily cases is down significantly since a peak in mid-April.

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