France records 166 new COVID-19 deaths; toll nears 25,000

Paris: At least 24,760 people infected with the COVID-19 have died since March 1 in France, inching up by 0.65 per cent on daily basis, while the number of hospitalised patients and those in intensive care confirmed a downward trend, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

The one-day deaths caused by the respiratory illness stood at 166, a slower pace compared with Friday’s 218 and Thursday’s 289, Xinhua reported.

Hospitalised COVID-19 patients went down to 25,827 and those intensive care stood at 3,827. In total, 130,979 people have contracted COVID-19 in France since March 1, the ministry data showed.

“As May 11 approaches, the collective effort that is bearing fruit and slowing the epidemic must not be relaxed,” said the ministry.

“The scrupulous application of barrier gestures, respect of the minimum physical distance of one meter and drastic reduction of contacts are the best way to fight together against the spread of the virus,” it added.

France has put its 67 million population under confinement in mid-March. Now, it’s preparing a lockdown exit by opening gradually schools and shops and unwinding restriction on people movement as a slowing-down spread of the virus put less pressure on hospitals in the last three weeks.

Meanwhile, the two-month state of health emergency declared by the government on March 24, was to be prolonged by another two months to stem the coronavirus outbreak and address a possible resurgence of the COVID-19 when the confinement ends on May 11, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced early Saturday after a cabinet meeting.

Under the French law, a “state of health emergency” empowers the government to take special measures to restrict people’s freedom of movement and rule by decree to requisition certain goods and services to fight against a health disaster.

“We are going to have to perform a long-distance run,” said Veran. As part of the planned measures, anyone arriving from abroad and infected with the virus would be obliged by law to be quarantined.

“We are going to have to live with the virus for a while,” said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. “Learning to live with the virus, that’s what’s at stake in the coming months.”

The bill on the extension of the state of health emergency will be debated next week in the Senate before being sent to the National Assembly, said government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye. It is expected to become law by the end of the week.

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