France sees spike in Covid-19 deaths but hospital numbers continue to fall

Workers in protective suits get ready to spray disinfectant at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on May 14, 2020.
Workers in protective suits get ready to spray disinfectant at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on May 14, 2020. © Charles Platiau, REUTERS

France's death toll from the coronavirus rose by 351 to 27,425 on Thursday, the health ministry announced, but the number of patients in hospital and in intensive care units continued to drop.

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Thursday’s tally marks a significant increase from the 83 deaths reported on Wednesday, owing largely to a delay in reporting fatalities at the country’s care homes for the elderly.

The higher tally means France's overall Covid-19 death toll has once again overtaken Spain's, making it the fourth highest in the world after the US, the UK and Italy. Spain earlier on Thursday reported 217 new deaths, taking its toll to 27,321.

France's health ministry said in a statement that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 infections fell again to 20,463 from 21,071 on Wednesday, 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 129 to 2,299, from more than 7,000 in early April at the height of the crisis.

Both figures are welcome news for the government, which has begun lifting lockdown measures this week in an effort to revive a flagging economy.

The government has warned it will consider locking down the country again if daily new infections rise above 3,000. On Thursday, the number of infections increased by 622 to 141,356, up 0.4% and the eighth consecutive day that the case tally rose by about half a percentage point or less.

"The Covid-19 epidemic remains active and the virus is still circulating in France," the ministry warned in its statement.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced an 18-billion-euro ($19 billion) support package for France's virus-hit tourism industry, which accounts for almost 8% of gross domestic product and attracted nearly 90 million foreign visitors last year.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)

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