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France's Covid-19 death toll passes 27,000 but hospitalisations continue to fall

A patient suffering from Covid-19 practices rehabilitation exercises with a physiotherapist at a hospital in Vannes on May 6, 2020.
A patient suffering from Covid-19 practices rehabilitation exercises with a physiotherapist at a hospital in Vannes on May 6, 2020. © Stéphane Mahe, AFP

France's death toll from the coronavirus rose by 83 to 27,074 on Wednesday, with the rate of increase slowing again after a two-day upturn.

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Wednesday’s tally marks a significant decrease from the 348 deaths reported on Tuesday. It is welcome news for the French government, which has begun lifting lockdown measures this week in an effort to revive a flagging economy.

The lower tally means France's overall death toll has slipped back behind Spain's, a day after overtaking it.

However, the health ministry cautioned that it did not yet have a toll from nursing homes for Wednesday. It also acknowledged that a counting error had led it to revise the death toll at nursing homes down by 15 people from Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 infections fell again to 21,071 from 21,595 on Tuesday, continuing an uninterrupted downward trend now in its fifth week.

The number of people in intensive care — a key measure of a health system's ability to cope with the pandemic — also continued its downtrend, falling by 114 to 2,428, from more than 7,000 in early April at the height of the crisis.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 507 to 140,734 on Wednesday, down from 708 on Tuesday.

The government has said it will consider locking down the country again if daily new infections rise above 3,000.

In a meeting with regional leaders, President Emmanuel Macron emphasised that France faced a tricky balancing act by seeking to kick-start economic activity while preventing an upsurge in new virus cases.

"This partial reopening of the economy while still trying to keep the epidemic under control is unprecedented," he said. "That's the collective challenge we're facing."

Macron warned that the lockdown measures could be tightened again if needed. He added: "It is too early to declare victory."

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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