France reports 1,438 new virus deaths, highest toll to date

Director general for health says toll includes previously unreported deaths

French Director General of Health Jerome Salomon speaks during a press conference in Paris, on March 28, 2020, on the eleventh day of a strict nationwide confinement in France seeking to halt the spread of the COVID-19 infection caused by the novel coronavirus.
 The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in Europe surged past 20,000 on March 28, 2020, even as the Chinese city where the outbreak began cautiously returned to life.
Europe and the United States are facing a staggering increase in new cases of COVID-19 -- despite perhaps a third of humanity now living under lockdown.

France’s coronavirus-linked deaths rose by their most yet in figures released on Wednesday, while the number of intensive-care patients dropped for a seventh day.

Deaths linked to the virus rose by 1,438 to 17,167, said Jerome Salomon, Director General for health.

Mr Salomon said the toll did not only cover a 24-hour period, as it included fatalities in recent days that were not previously reported.

The number of reported infections in France rose by 4,560 to 147,863 cases.

As global coronavirus cases top 2 million, the Group of 20 leading economies have spent the equivalent of 3.5 per cent of GDP to fight the pandemic and its economic fallout, the International Monetary Fund estimated.

The European Commission has drawn up plans for a gradual exit from lockdowns imposed across the EU to slow the spread, even as it warned that easing restrictions would lead to a rapid rise in new cases.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is still very active. We need to remain vigilant,” Mr Salomon said. “It’s indispensable to respect the confinement.”

Total deaths in France linked to the coronavirus are starting to approach those in Spain, where daily figures have been coming down and fatalities stand at 18,579.

Italy is the hardest-hit country in Europe, reporting 21,645 deaths as of Wednesday.

The number of people admitted to hospital in France because of the coronavirus fell for the first time since the start of the outbreak, Mr Salomon said.

Patients in intensive-care units, an indicator of outbreak’s intensity and its effects on the country’s hospital system, fell by 273 to 6,457, the lowest since April 2, Health Ministry data showed.

“We are still facing a high plateau, a very high plateau,” Mr Salomon said.