France reaches painful milestone of 20,000 deaths linked to COVID-19

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A member of the medical staff, wearing a protective face mask, sends a message on her mobile phone during a break while she is working in the intensive care unit (ICU) for patients with coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Clinique de l’Estree private hospital in Stains near Paris as the spread of coronavirus disease continues in France, on April 20, 2020. Benoit Tessier, Reuters

France announced Monday that it has become the fourth country in the world to register more than 20,000 deaths from the new coronavirus, after registering 547 new deaths in the epidemic.

“Tonight, our country has crossed a symbolic and particularly painful barrier,” senior health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.

He said the total death toll in the country was 20,265, while welcoming further declines in the number of hospitalizations and intensive care.

Salomon noted that the death toll from coronaviruses is now well above the 14,000 people who died in the worst recent flu epidemic in France and even exceeded the 19,000 killed by the 2003 heat wave.

France is the fourth country to register more than 20,000 deaths, after the United States – by far the most affected in the world – Italy and Spain.

Its balance sheet includes 12,513 people who died in hospital and 7,752 people who died in retirement homes and other nursing homes.

But Salomon also welcomed data indicating that a person with COVID-19 in France now infects on average less than one other person, up from three before the country was detained more than a month ago. .

“This is how we will succeed in curbing the epidemic,” he said.

The number of people in intensive care infected with COVID-19 fell for the 12th consecutive day, by 61 patients to 5,863.

“The fall … is confirmed but it remains very slight,” said Salomon.

In the meantime, the number of hospital patients has decreased by 26, the sixth successive daily decrease, to 30,584.

“Weak collective immunity”
France has been blocked since March 17 in an effort to slow the spread of the epidemic. But President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that the lockdown could start easing from May 11.

Schools could then reopen gradually, but cafes, cinemas and cultural venues would remain closed, and there could not be summer festivals until mid-July at the earliest.

Unlike some European countries, France takes stock of deaths in retirement homes every day.

In a retirement home in Mars-la-Tour in northeast Moselle, 22 of the 51 residents have died from COVID-19 in the past two weeks, said its director.

At a press conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned that it would take a long time to overcome the epidemic, stressing that the initial easing would only be partial.

“Our life from May 11 will not be like ours before, not immediately, and probably not for long,” he said.

Salomon said the data indicated that less than 10 percent of the population in France had been infected with the virus, noting that this would mean that there would be no collective immunity in the country on May 11.

“Levels of immunity are probably higher in the most affected areas,” he said.

“Collective immunity in France is low, as many other countries also indicate. “

France has 114,657 confirmed cases, but officials say the actual figure is much higher due to a lack of testing.

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