PARIS (Reuters) – Fewer people died in France in early May than in the same period in the two previous years following high excess death rates during the peak of the coronavirus epidemic in March-April, statistics agency INSEE said on Friday.

The agency also reported that while death rates increased with age for those over 50 during the epidemic, fewer younger people died, probably because the lockdown led to a drop in other causes of death, notably accidents.

French mortality rates between May 1 and 18 were 6% lower than in May 1-18, 2019 and 1% below that period in 2018, provisional data showed.

As the epidemic raged between March 1 and April 30, French mortality was 26% higher than March-April 2019 and 16% higher than the corresponding period in 2018.

“Since May 1… we no longer see excess mortality compared to the two previous years” the agency said in a statement.

Only the region around Paris – the area worst hit by the virus – still showed excess deaths of 6% early May compared with 2019, down sharply from 89% in March-April.

In March-April, 129,084 people died in France, or 2,116 per day on average, compared with an average 1,720-1,817 in the same months in 2019 and 2018.

The average death toll per day rose to 2,250 in the second half of March, peaking on April 1, when 2,795 people died.

INSEE said mortality often spikes during flu season in January-February. In January 2017, an average 2,200 people died per day, more than during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Compared with March-April 2019, mortality increased with age for people over 50 during the epidemic, up 12% for 50-64 year-olds, 21% for 65-74 year-olds and about 30% for people over 75.

But for younger people, mortality fell 1% for 25-49 year-olds and up to 16% for men younger than 25, INSEE said.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Marguerita Choy)