France daily virus toll falls, sunshine sparks reminder to respect lockdown
France on Sunday reported 357 hospital deaths from the coronavirus, the lowest daily increase in a week, bringing the country's toll to 8,078. But authorities and doctors warned people not to be tempted outside by the sunny spring weather and to continue to respect the lockdown measures.
The health ministry data showed that 357 people died from Covid-19 in hospitals, compared with 441 in the previous 24 hours, taking the total toll in hospitals to 5,889.
It said that 2,189 people had died in nursing homes since 1 March, taking France's total death toll to 8,078.
"These data confirm that the epidemic is ongoing in the country, and continues to hit hard," the ministry said.
The health ministry added admissions into ICU units also slowed on the past 24 hours with 390 people needing intensive care compared with 502 the previous day.
France has been in lockdown since 17 March in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic, with only essential trips allowed that must be justified with a signed piece of paper.
There have been 70,478 confirmed coronavirus cases in France, but this is not the total as testing for the virus is not universal.
It added that some 22,361 confirmed or possible cases have been recorded in nursing homes, taking France's total confirmed or possible coronavirus cases to 92,839.
20th day of confinement
"French men and women who are in their twentieth day of confinement must be thanked," the health ministry said in the statement.
It urged citizens to continue respecting the strict confinement measures and keep their distances.
As the country basked in warm sunshine on Sunday and the Easter holiday period started, officials and doctors urged people to continue heeding the lockdown rules.
Sunny spring weather
"It's the holidays, the weather is nice, don't give in to the temptation," urged Valerie Pecresse, president of the Paris Ile-de-France region, which is hardest hit by the pandemic.
Police checks continued as people around the country were observed flouting restrictions to jog in groups, gather in green spaces and allow children to play together as rural areas received holidaymakers contrary to the government's confinement orders.
"The end of confinement is not yet on the cards, a deadline has not been set," interior ministry number two Laurent Nunez stressed.
"I remind you of the rule... one goes out only when it is strictly necessary."
Lockdown in France may continue beyond mid-April.