PARIS (Reuters) – France’s daily death toll from the novel coronavirus fell in the past 24 hours and admissions into intensive care also slowed, the health ministry said on Sunday, thanking citizens for largely respecting a lockdown to halt the spread of the virus.

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 March 1, taking France’s total death toll to 8,078.

“These data confirms that the epidemic is ongoing in the country, and continues to hit hard,” the ministry said.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in France since the start of the epidemic rose by 2.7% or 1,873 to 70,478, the ministry said in daily update of the situation.

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.

France decided on March 17 to confine its residents to homes to curb the spread of the virus as a daily surge of infections threatened the health system. The measures have been extended until April 15, and are likely to be extended again.

“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. Authorities and doctors warned people earlier on Sunday not to be tempted outside by the sunny spring weather.

The health ministry said admissions into ICU units also slowed on the past 24 hours with 390 people needing intensive care compared with 502 the previous day. The total number of people in ICU units was at 6,978, a 2% increase compared with a 2.6% rise the previous 24 hours.

(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Pravin Char and Angus MacSwan)