France reports 516 new coronavirus deaths, total 21,856

France on Thursday reported 516 new deaths from the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing its overall toll to 21,856 fatalities, the country s health department said.

But it said the number of patients in intensive care is continuing a two-week decline, falling by 165 over 24 hours to 5,053.

“We nonetheless remain at an exceptional level, over and above maximum pre-crisis intensive care capacity in France” amounting to 5,000 beds, the health department said in a statement.

A majority of the deaths reported (13,547) were in hospital, and the rest in retirement homes and other facilities.

Although hospitals across France are still receiving a steady stream of new cases the overall number of those who remain hospitalised with the virus continues to drop, underscoring an eight-day trend.

A total of 29,219 cases are now being treated in hospital, down 522 on Wednesday.

Since the start of the epidemic 42,088 people have left hospital. Not taking into account the tens of thousands of people who healed without being interned, the health service said.

French authorities say the coming days are key if the country is to be able to meet a May 11 target. To begin a gradual end to national lockdown measures imposed in mid-March.

Officials have warned that confinement must have proved to be a success before deconfinement can begin.

ALSO READ: Fearing new virus wave France refines end of lockdown plans
 

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