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Covid-19: France records 531 deaths in a day as hospital cases continue to fall

Nurse Samantha Poirier checks an artificial respirator as she treats a patient suffering from Covid-19 in the intensive care unit at the Clinique de l'Estrée private hospital in Stains near Paris, France on April 20, 2020.
Nurse Samantha Poirier checks an artificial respirator as she treats a patient suffering from Covid-19 in the intensive care unit at the Clinique de l'Estrée private hospital in Stains near Paris, France on April 20, 2020. REUTERS - Benoit Tessier

France on Tuesday reported 531 deaths from Covid-19 in 24 hours as the number of people in hospital and intensive care continued to decline.

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The daily tally – 387 deaths in hospital and 144 in nursing homes – brought France's total Covid-19 death toll to 20,796, top health official Jérôme Salomon told reporters.

Salomon spoke one day after France became the fourth country after Italy, Spain, and the US to surpass the 20,000-fatality mark.

France has been under virtual lockdown for five weeks and is due to start lifting some confinement measures on May 11.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told a news conference Sunday that the gradual exit from lockdown in May, due to start with the reopening of schools, would not allow people to move around or interact as before, especially without any vaccine against the virus.

"It won't be a return to normal life," Philippe said, adding that as France introduces more testing, people with coronavirus would have to remain isolated at home or in hotels laid on by the government.

Health minister: Nursing home visits allowed 

France has provided few details of the pace at which businesses like cinemas or bars will reopen, only saying that as some stores open up again, people will have to maintain social distancing.

However, Health Minister Olivier Véran told the same Sunday briefing that France will lift its ban on visits to nursing home residents, provided people did not have physical contact with their relatives. Elderly people in nursing homes account for nearly 40 percent of the coronavirus fatalities in the country.

The government faced recent criticism after shortages of medicine, hospital equipment such as ventilators, and face masks for doctors as well as front-line workers in sectors like supermarkets added to problems in its handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

Philippe on Sunday said that France had managed to import just under 81 million masks during the previous week, exceeding for the first time "in a long time" the country’s weekly need of about 45 million.

By June, France will also have secured and produced 15,000 more ventilators for resuscitation units in hospitals and another 15,000 less heavy-duty versions – helping it exceed its projected needs.

Philippe said the surplus of ventilators will allow the country to “help France’s allies internationally”.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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