PARIS (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus infections in France jumped on the same day the government announced an easing of lockdown rules, but the increase reflected the inclusion of new data rather than a rise in daily infections, the Health Ministry said.

The inclusion of data from a new tracking system boosted the number of confirmed coronavirus cases by 3,325 to 149,071, the biggest increase since a 4,183 increase on May 6, when data from a new laboratory were included.

“The increase compared to yesterday is due to more efficient tracking, not to the epidemiological situation in France,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

It said that from now on France would use a new monitoring system that will allow for more complete tracking.

The ministry did not specify how much the case count had increased on Thursday. On Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases rose by 191, or 0.1%, to 145,555, a lower daily rate of increase than the 0.2% average seen the previous seven days.

The ministry said the virus’ total death toll rose by 66, or 0.2%, to 28,662, the same increase as on Wednesday and the eighth day that the number of deaths remained below 100.

In the first half of April, France reported over 1,000 deaths per day on several days, with a peak of 1,438 on April 15.

The ministry said the number of people in hospital fell by nearly 500, or 3%, to 15,208, and the number of people in intensive care fell by 72, or 4.8%, to 1,429. Both numbers have been on a downtrend since mid-April.

The slowdown in the infection rate and reduced pressure on France’s health system were key factors in the government’s decision to announce further easing of the lockdown rules on Thursday, including the reopening of bars, restaurants and beaches.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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