France reports 761 more coronavirus deaths
Migrants disembark from the SNSM Calais life boat on April 17, 2020, after being rescued off the coast of Calais trying to cross to Great Britain during the French nationwide lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus.–AFP
France on Friday reported 761 more deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals and nursing homes over the last 24 hours but welcomed new falls in the total numbers of coronavirus patients.
The new deaths -- 418 in hospitals and 343 in nursing homes -- brought the total toll in the country from the epidemic to 18,681, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.
But in more positive news, the total numbers in hospital fell for the third day in a row -- with 115 fewer patients -- and the numbers in intensive care fell for the ninth consecutive day with 221 fewer patients.
The country's month-long lockdown "is starting to bear fruit," said Salomon, while urging: "We have to continue our efforts in confinement."
He described the fall in intensive care and hospital numbers as "slow but constant" and said France was seeing now a slowing in in spread of the epidemic.
He said spread "had been mitigated very well by all the French" through respecting the confinement orders and social distance recommendations while outside.
"We have strongly broken the epidemic which at the beginning was very contagious, with a virus that was being transmitted to a very large number of people," said Salomon.
Neighbouring Germany, which declared on Friday it has the virus under control, has registered far fewer COVID-19 deaths than France. But Salomon said it was too early to make comparisons between individual countries.
"There is a heterogenity in Europe that we can't explain at the moment. There are countries which are very affected -- like Belgium which is worse hit than France -- and Britain as well is badly hit."
France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic. But President Emmanuel Macron announced this week that the lockdown could begin to be eased from May 11.
He said schools could gradually reopen then but cafes, cinemas and cultural venues would remain closed, and there could be no summer festivals until mid-July at the earliest.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Health Minister Olivier Veran are due on Sunday to give a news conference where they are expected to outline how the lockdown can be eased.