France registered 753 more deaths from coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 17,920, the fourth-highest tally in the world, but the number of people in hospital has declined for a second day running.
And, in another sign that the lockdown put in place a month ago is working, Jérôme Salomon, head of the public health authority, said the total of people in intensive care units (ICU) fell for the eighth day in a row, at 6,248, a low point since April 1.
"Our collective efforts demonstrate their effectiveness. The spread of the virus is stabilizing at a high level (...) and that is good news," Salomon said.
Corroborating this observation, senior health officials in Paris - the worst-hit region in France - said there was reason for optimism in the fight against the new coronavirus in view of the number of hospitalisations and admissions to ICU units.
But Salomon said the French health system was still under huge stress and that it was crucial French citizens continued to comply with the lockdown put in place on March 17 and extended to May 11 on Monday.
"The decline in intensive care needs is consolidating, but 6,248 patients in ICU units is a much higher figure than the initial maximum capacity in these units in France," Salomon said.
That number was however at its lowest since April 1 and is down by almost 1,000 from its April 8 peak of 7,148. Before Covid-19 started to spread, France had 5,000 hospital beds equipped with ventilation gear.
At 17,920, the number of fatalities is up 4.4% over 24 hours, with the rate of increase decelerating again after speeding up in the two previous days.
France has the fourth highest tally of fatalitiesin the world, behind the United States, Italy and Spain. These four countries account for almost two-thirds of the current global total of more than 140,000 deaths.
The rate of increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in France remained steady at 2.5%, with 108,847 cases. In nursing homes however, probable cases shot up by 36%, reaching 37,213.
That took the total number of confirmed and possible cases to 146,606, up 9.4%, against Wednesday's increase of 2.2%
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