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France reports new highest daily toll of coronavirus deaths

France's Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, on March 10, 2020.
France's Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, on March 10, 2020. © REUTERS

French health authorities reported 365 new deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, taking the total to 1,696. A 16-year-old girl was among them, making her France's youngest-ever person to die from the virus.

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The rise in the number of deaths represents a daily rise of 27 percent, a marked increase from the previous day with France now in its second week of lockdown.

This daily government tally only accounts for those dying in hospital, but authorities said they would soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.

During a press conference, health agency director Jérôme Salomon added that the number of cases had risen to 29,155, a rise of 16 percent in 24 hours.

Salomon said 3,375 people were in a serious condition needing life support, up 19 percent compared to Wednesday and meaning that close to half of France's 8,000 beds equipped with ventilation gear are occupied.

French economy operating at 65 percent

The rise in coronavirus tolls came as the official INSEE statistical agency said French economic activity and household spending are running at about 65 percent of normal levels due to the coronavirus outbreak.

INSEE gave the first picture of the impact of the nationwide lockdown as it published its monthly business confidence index, which saw its biggest single drop since records began in 1980.

The index fell to 95 points from 105 points in February with even steeper declines seen in the services and retail sectors, INSEE said.

The French government has prepared a €45 billion package – 2 percent of GDP – of crisis measures made up mainly of deferred taxes and payroll charges for companies, and payments to companies who put workers on reduced schedules.

Additionally, the government is guaranteeing up to €300 billion – 15 percent of GDP – of corporate borrowing from commercial banks to keep credit flowing to the economy.

INSEE said it was too early to try to forecast how deep the downturn would be, but it estimated that each month of confinement would reduce economic activity by 12 percentage points on a quarterly basis and three percentage points on an annual basis.

16-year-old among virus dead

The mother of France's youngest coronavirus victim has spoken of the "unbearable" loss of her 16-year-old daughter, as the country reported its highest daily toll from the pandemic.

The teenage girl named Julie A died in Paris, becoming the youngest French victim of the disease that more often afflicts the elderly or people with underlying health conditions.

"It's unbearable," the girl's mother Sabine told AFP by phone from her home in the Parisian suburbs. "We were meant to have an ordinary life."

A week ago, Julie developed a mild cough but on Saturday she began to feel short of breath, her mother said.

She underwent scans in hospital and several tests for COVID-19, the disease first detected in China late last year that has now killed more than 23,000 worldwide.

Her condition deteriorated and her death was announced on Thursday, with health officials emphasising that severe cases are very rare in young people.

"From the start, we were told that the virus doesn't affect young people. We believed it, like everyone else," Sabine said. Her daughter had no known underlying health problems.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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