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France coronavirus death toll tops 1000


France has become the fifth country to report more than 1000 deaths from coronavirus and the national lockdown imposed last week for an initial 15 days chould last at least six weeks.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told a briefing on Tuesday he could not determine at this stage when the lockdown would end. If the government were to follow the scientific council's advice, France would remain at a virtual standstill until April 28.

A statement by the council, which advises President Emmanuel Macron on the coronavirus crisis, also said the lockdown was the only really efficient strategy at the moment and "needs to be strictly implemented".

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Monday the widespread lockdown in France could last several more weeks and his government was tightening restrictions on daily life even further.

Veran also said France would heed World Health Organisation recommendations to increase coronavirus testing. Health agency chief Jerome Salomon said later France would soon be able to conduct 10,000 tests a day.

Salomon reported 240 new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday for a total of 1100, an increase of 28 per cent that made France the fifth nation to cross the 1000-fatalities threshold after China, Italy, Iran and Spain.

This tally only accounts for people who died in public hospitals, whereas several retirement homes have been reporting deaths in the double digits.

Salomon said health authorities would soon be able to tabulate data coming from retirement homes, which will likely trigger a more dramatic increase in registered fatalities.

He said the total number of infections in France had risen to 22,300, a 12 per cent jump in 24 hours.

Salomon added that 2516 people were in a serious condition requiring life support, up by 21 per cent from Monday, and that 8000 hospital beds were now equipped with ventilators.

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