PARIS (Reuters) – France’s coronavirus death toll closed in on 24,000 Tuesday, as Prime Minister Edouard Philippe detailed the government’s plan to start unwinding the lockdown imposed on March 17 to contain the spread of the disease.

Philippe said France, which has the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, would adopt an aggressive new doctrine on COVID-19 testing from May 11 when it plans to start easing restrictions.

But he also warned authorities might reverse course if the number of daily new confirmed cases rises above 3,000 again, which it did on Monday.

In a statement, the Health ministry said confirmed cases were up 1,520 at 129,859. Over the past 15 days, the 3,000 daily threshold has been crossed only twice and, on average during that period, the figure rose daily by 2,119.

In nursing homes, probable cases were up 1,573 at 39,076, bringing the total of cases in France to 168,935, an increase of 3,093.

The number of people who have died rose by 367 to 23,660 with the rate of increase, at 1.6%, slightly slowing compared to Monday.

For French hospitals only, the figure was up 2.2% at 14,810, compared to 21,678 hospital deaths reported earlier by Britain, which will start publishing data on deaths in care homes and in the community every day from Wednesday.

The death toll in French nursing homes was up 0.6%, at 8,850, accounting for more than 37% of the coronavirus-linked fatalities in France.

If that ratio was applied to Britain, its death toll would be close to 30,000, overtaking Italy as the second-worst hit country behind the United States.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Chris Reese and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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