PARIS (Reuters) – The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France rose by 516 to 21,856 on Thursday, the health ministry said in a statement.

The 2.4% increase was slightly slower than on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the death toll increased by 2.6%, but well below the more than 4% rate seen last week.

In Italy, the daily rate of increase in the death toll fell below three percent on April 12, when the cumulative death toll stood at just under 20,000. In the past two weeks, with the number of casualties increasing between 2.8% and 1.8% per day, Italy has seen its death toll rise by more than 5,000 to 25,549.

Spain, whose cumulative coronavirus death toll of 22,157 is just 301 above France’s, has also seen its death toll increase rate remain stubbornly above two percent for a week despite strict lockdown policies.

The number of people in French hospitals with COVID-19 infection fell further, by 522 or 1.8% to 29,129, the ninth consecutive fall, and the number of people in intensive care fell by 165 or 3.2% to 5,053 in a 15th consecutive fall.

France’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 1,653 or 1.4% to 120,804 while the number of possible cases in nursing homes rose by 670 or 1.8% to 37,379. The number of possible cases in nursing homes has been reviewed downwards from a high of 40,726 on April 20.

The total number of confirmed and possible cases of coronavirus infection in France rose by 2,323 or 1.5% to 158,183.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Chris Reese, Kirsten Donovan)

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