France reports 348 new Covid-19 deaths as country emerges from lockdown

By Mike Woods - RFI
Europe REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes
MAY 13, 2020 LISTEN
REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes

France reported 348 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday evening, bringing the total number of dead to 26,991, as the country began gradually easing lockdown measures.

The latest 24-hour mortality figure, provided by health officials on Tuesday evening, included 183 new deaths in hospital and 165 in care homes for the elderly.

The hospital figure was up slightly from the 178 reported Monday, which was itself notably larger than figures from the weekend, when deaths tend to be underreported.

But the figure also showed average mortality continued to decline: an average of 135 people have died per day over the past seven days, down from 179 a week ago and from the peak weekly average mortality of 514 on 8 April. 

The toll in care homes for the elderly brought the total toll of Covid-19 for residents of such homes to 9,988, about 27 percent of the total 26,991. 

Hospital numbers also showed the total numbers of patients, including those in intensive care, continued to decline. 

There were 21,595 people in hospital, down from a peak of 32,292 on 15 April. Of those, 2,542 were in ICU, down from 7,148 on 8 April.

France is the country with the fourth highest official death toll, behind the United States (83,425), the United Kingdom (32,692) and Italy (30,911). It has reported slightly more deaths than Spain (26,920). 

Schools reopen with strict protocol

On Monday, France began to lift confinement measures that had been in place since 17 March and that placed strict limits on the reasons and amount of time one could venture into public. 

Some schools, closed since 16 March, began to reopen, and Tuesday saw the return of 1.5 million of the country's 6.7 million pupils in primary schools (ages 6-10).

Maternal and primary schools, reopened against the recommendations of government medical advisors, are observing strict protocol of regular hand washing, mask-wearing for teachers and staff, physical distancing and small class sizes. 

Junior high schools, or collèges (ages 11-14) were slated to reopen on Monday 18 May in regions with lower levels of Covid-19. Lycées (high schools, ages 15-17) were to remain closed nationwide until 2 June at the earliest. 

Transit services fight overcrowding

Lifting confinement measures and reopening schools meant it was possible to get back to work for many who had been either laid off or on childcare leave. 

Public officials reported more efficient service on Paris-region transit services after closures and overcrowding on several lines on Monday.

Flooding due to heavy rains made for reduced service and crowding on line 13 of the Paris metro, which is used by many essential workers from northern suburbs. 

The RATP metro company said service was better on Tuesday and would be operating at full capacity on Wednesday. 

The Bank of France reported Tuesday that the GDP had retracted by 6 percent during the eight weeks of confinement and economic activity had fallen 27 percent.

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