PARIS (REUTERS) - France's registered death toll from coronavirus infections neared 19,000 on Friday (April 17), but most data provided further indications that the spread of the disease was slowing after a one-month-old national lockdown, officials said.
During a press conference Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, said the number of people in hospital had declined for a third day running, and that the total number in intensive care units had fallen for the ninth day running.
"Our collective efforts demonstrate their effectiveness. The lockdown is starting to bear fruit," Salomon said.
The number of ICU patients, at 6,027, was at its lowest since April 1 and down more than 1,000 from its April 8 peak of 7,148.
Before Covid-19 started to spread, France had 5,000 hospital beds equipped with ventilation gear.
At 18,681, the number of deaths was up 4.2 per cent over 24 hours, though the rate of increase decelerated for the second day running.
France has the fourth highest tally of fatalities in the world, behind the United States, Italy and Spain and ahead of Britain. These five countries account for almost three-quarters of the current global total of more than 149,000 deaths.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in France was barely up (+0.4 per cent) at 109,252. And in nursing homes, the increase of probable cases decelerated sharply - 4 per cent versus 36 per cent on Thursday - reaching 38,717.
That took the total number of confirmed and possible cases to 147,969, up 1.3 per cent against Thursday's increase of 9.4 per cent.