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Coronavirus: 'The fight has only just begun,' says French PM

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, March 27, 2020.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, March 27, 2020. © Christophe Ena, Reuters

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe warned on Saturday that "the first 15 days of April will be even more difficult than the last 15 days which have just passed" in France's coronavirus crisis, adding that, "The fight has only just begun." 

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Official figures released Saturday evening showed that 2,314 people have died from the coronavirus in France, up by 319 from the previous day's tally. 

There are now 37,575 cases of coronavirus infection in France, up 4,611 on the day before, including 17,620 people in hospital, with 4,273 of them in intensive care.

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Both the death toll and the number of infections are likely higher than the official figures. The number of those who died counts only those who died in hospital -- not retirement homes or at home -- while only those deemed at high risk are currently being tested.

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France has been under virtual lockdown since March 17 and Philippe said on Friday that the unprecedented peacetime restrictions on public life would remain in place until at least April 15.

Public gatherings are banned, schools and universities are closed and all non-essential businesses have shut down, with people allowed out of their homes only to buy groceries, carry out essential work, exercise or seek medical care.

As well as telling France that the coronavirus crisis will become even more difficult in the weeks to come in his press conference on Saturday, Philippe hailed the "collective effort" of the country's "admirable" and "courageous" healthcare workers.

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Meanwhile France's Health Minister Olivier Véran announced on Saturday that the government has ordered more than a billion face masks – the overwhelming majority of them sourced from China – as the government scrambles to build up its supplies.

Véran noted that France has been using 40 million face masks weekly as it battles the pandemic and currently has three weeks worth of supplies.

Doctors, nursing home carers, the police and other frontline staff have decried a shortage of masks.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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