(This May 18 story, corrects to say France has fourth highest number of coronavirus deaths, not confirmed cases, in paragraph 2)
PARIS (Reuters) – France reported a small dip in the daily tally of new coronavirus deaths on Monday, though it also saw a slight uptick in confirmed cases, a week after authorities started easing lockdown restrictions.
France’s death toll is the fourth highest worldwide, after the United States, Britain and Italy, and its health ministry, announcing the latest figures, urged people to remain cautious and to respect social distancing rules.
It reported 131 further fatalities over the past 24 hours from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, or a slowing increase of 0.5%, bringing the total death tally to 28,239.
A surge in fatalities in retirement homes pushed up France’s daily death toll to 483 on Sunday. But over the last 24 hours, those homes only registered eight new deaths.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still active,” the ministry said. The number of new confirmed cases of the virus rose by 492, or 0.3%, the ministry said, as fears of a second wave of infections linger in France, where junior high schools are now reopening their doors in some regions.
On Sunday it had seen only 120 new coronavirus cases, or a daily increase of 0.1%.
The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 infection declined by 4.3% to 1,998, below the 2,000 threshold for the first time since March 22. The number of people in hospitals fell to 19,015 from 19,361 on Sunday.
Both numbers – key indicators for the French health system’s ability to cope with the epidemic – have been on a downtrend for four to five weeks and peaked at more than 32,000 and more than 7,000 respectively in early to mid-April.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Gareth Jones)