PARIS (Reuters) – France’s daily coronavirus death toll rebounded on Friday, three days before it starts lifting its almost two-month-old national lockdown.

The Health Ministry said 243 people had died of the respiratory illness COVID-19 in the space of 24 hours, compared 178 on Thursday, for a total of 26,230.

France has the world’s fifth highest death toll, after the United States, Britain, Italy and Spain.

The number of people in intensive care units – a measure of the health system’s ability to deal with the epidemic – fell by 93 or 3% to 2,868, well below the peak of 7,148 seen on April 8.

The number of people in hospital with the coronavirus also fell again, to 22,724 from 23,208, continuing an uninterrupted three-week fall and down 30% from a peak of 32,292 on April 14.

There were 642 new confirmed cases, compared to 629 the previous day, for a total of 138,421, official data showed.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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