As France entered its fourth week of lockdown, the coronavirus epidemic still hit hard, claiming on Tuesday 1,417 more deaths in hospitals and nursing homes, making the combined fatalities at 10,328, a French health official said.
Data unveiled by General Director of Health Jerome Salomon showed a fresh daily record of deaths in hospital where 607 people have succumbed to COVID-19 on Tuesday, representing a daily increase of 9.4 per cent to a cumulative total of 7,091, compared with a 10 per cent rise registered on Monday.
The human loss caused by the epidemic had also risen in retirement homes. Some 3,237 have died since early March, up from Monday's 2,417, reports Xinhua news agency.
Less than two months after the first COVID-19 death, an 80-year-old tourist from China, was reported on Feb 14, France now became the fourth country globally after Italy, Spain and the United States to report more than 10,000 deaths.
However, pressure was easing in intensive care units thanks to slowing rise in serious cases and a growing number of cured patients.
Some 30,000 are now receiving treatment in hospitals, including 7,131 who need to be put on ventilator, a one-day increase of 59 compared with 94 on Monday.
"It is an important indicator which allows us to assess the tension in hospitals and the need to mobilise all the human and logistical resources," Salomon said.
Also, the number of people who have recovered "is increasing every day," the official noted. In total, 19,337 patients in France have come out of hospital cured.
Despite some good signs, Salomon said that the time for lifting the confinement has not come yet.
"Relaxing efforts will be extremely dangerous for patients and caregivers," he warned, urging people "to absolutely be mobilised on containment, barrier gestures and social distancing."
France decided on March 17 to put its 67 million residents into lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. The measures have been extended until April 15, and are likely to be extended again.
"The time of lockdown will last. This is essential. What matters is to ensure that confinement works, that the virus circulates slowly enough so that the number of severe cases in intensive care units does not exceed the overall capacity of our hospital system," French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said early Tuesday.
During a question session at the National Assembly, Philippe told lawmakers that the government was working on lifting the confinement, but "it won't be for tomorrow."
"This is the reason why we are preparing. To prepare does not mean that it is ready. That meant to work on technical, scientific and logistical levels to be ready when the time comes," he said.