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25.03.2020 Europe

Covid-19 deaths rise to 1,100 in France as country faces six-week lockdown

By RFI with Mike Woods
REUTERS - BENOIT TESSIER
LISTEN MAR 25, 2020
REUTERS - BENOIT TESSIER

The nationwide lockdown imposed to battle the coronavirus epidemic in France last week should last at least six weeks in total, government advisors said Tuesday, as the death toll in France reached 1,100.  

"Confinement will likely last at least six weeks from the moment it was put in place" last Tuesday 17 March, said a committee of 10 doctors and sociologists created to advice the government on how to fight Covid-19.

France has already been under strict confinement measures for one week, with only essential sorties such as gathering groceries or visiting doctors authorized.

The committee said it was "indispensable" to extend the lockdown from its initial duration of two weeks, but the government said the six-week figure was only an estimation.

"[The committee] said we need to be prepared that the confinement will last more than two weeks and that maybe it could be even more like five or six weeks," said Health Minister Olivier Véran, adding the lockdown "will last as long as it needs to."

Death toll rises
The warning of an extended lockdown came as France's director general of health Jérôme Salomon announced there had been 240 new deaths due to Covid-19 in hospitals within the previous 24 hours.

The deaths marked a nearly 30-percent increase over the previous day's death toll of 186 and brought the overall death toll to 1,100, making France the fifth country to register more than a thousand deaths from Covid-19.

Salomon also said there are 22,300 confirmed cases and 10,176 in hospital, including 2,516 in critical condition, but warned there were likely many more cases as confirmed cases are only those severe enough to be tested. 

Salomon also emphasized the death toll of 1,100 includes only those recorded to have died in hospitals and not in old people's homes. 

Macron forms research committee
President Emmanuel Macron also set up a new committee of 12 researchers and doctors to advise the executive on the research efforts to fight the epidemic.

"I am gathering our best researchers to make progress on testing and treatment," Macron announced on Twitter. "Our research efforts are completely mobilised in the fight against Covid-19."

Nicknamed "Le Care", the committee will be presided by virologist Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, whose work to identify the HIV virus contributed to her winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008.

The committee will be tasks to brief the government about available treatments, tests and practices for identifying who has been in contacts with those infected with Covid-19.

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