France reports lowest new COVID-19 deaths since October

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France reported 113 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals on Sunday, down from 195 on Saturday, and the lowest since October, health ministry data showed, on the eve of an easing of the country’s lockdown restrictions.

The number of people in intensive care rose by 4 over 24 hours, to 5,585, halting five consecutive days of decline.

There were also 9,888 new confirmed virus infections, taking the total to 5.65 million – the world’s fourth highest.

France’s death toll since the start of the epidemic stands at 104,819, the eighth highest tally globally.

The country began its third national lockdown at the end of March to tackle a surge in cases.

Under pressure from business and a weary public, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday a four-phase plan to ease restrictions.

From Monday, a restriction limiting people to a 10 kilometre (6.21 mile) radius from their homes will be lifted and more schools will partly reopen. Elementary schools are already open.

From May 19, France will start relaxing a nightly curfew and allow cafes, bars and restaurants to offer outside service.

“We have all reasons to be confident in our ability to take that May 19 step forward nationwide,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

Apart from the weeks of lockdown, France has accelerated its vaccination campaign.

The health ministry on Sunday said 15.8 million, or 23.7% of the population, have received a first shot of vaccine and 6.5 million, or 9.4% of the population, have received two shots.

Photo: A health worker (L) wearing protective gear collects a nasopharyngeal swab sample from a mask-wearing traveler (R) at a testing unit set up to screen arriving passengers for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease at the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy, France. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON