Death toll from virus in France exceeds 4,000

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A patient is loaded onto a French military helicopter bound for St. Gallen hospital in Switzerland on March 30. (Photo AP)

PARIS: France announced on Wednesday its highest number of daily deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, saying that an additional 509 people had died in hospital to bring the death toll to 4,032.

There are now 24,639 people hospitalized in France with Covid-19, including 6,017 in intensive care, Jerome Salomon, head of health, told reporters in his daily update.

The death toll on Tuesday increased by 499.

French figures include only those who died in hospital and not those who died at home or in retirement homes.

The number of confirmed cases also increased by 4,861 to 56,989.

However, many cases go unreported due to a lack of test equipment.

Salomon noted that the number of people in intensive care was already greater than France’s intensive care capacity of about 5,000 before the crisis.

France has been blocked since March 17 in an effort to slow the spread of the epidemic, and officials have repeatedly warned that it will take time for the measures to bear fruit.

Hospitals under stress

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that when internment ended, it would likely be a step-by-step process.

He said it probably wouldn’t be “all at once, everywhere and for everyone”, which could depend on place of residence, tests and age.

The possibility, in the weeks and months to come, of strengthening the tests would allow the government to know the proportion of people infected and therefore the degree of immunity of the French population, he said.

France currently performs 30,000 tests a day, much less than in neighboring Germany, a weakness that has been repeatedly noted by the right-wing opposition.

But France hopes to speed up tests considerably in the days and weeks to come with the arrival of serological blood tests and then rapid tests which can give results in a few minutes.

The government’s strategy is to limit the peak of the epidemic so that the health system is not overwhelmed.

Hospitals have been under immense stress in the east of the country – one of the worst affected areas – but also in the Paris region.

A hundred additional patients will be transferred from Paris to elsewhere in France on Thursday.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has warned residents to cancel any travel plans for the school holidays starting this weekend, promising to punish any unjustified movement.

Health Minister Olivier Veran, who has faced a strong challenge to excessive stocks of protective equipment and virus testing kits, said: “The days to come will be more difficult.”

But, he added, “there are also signs of hope” in the number of admissions to intensive care units.

France has ordered “more than a billion and a half masks” inside the country and abroad, he added.

However, Philippe Juvin, head of emergency services at the Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris, warned CNews that “we are greatly mistaken about the severity of this disease”.

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