The number of people who died of coronavirus infection in France increased by 218 to 24,594 on Friday, the lowest daily increase since the end of March, government data showed.
Health Ministry chief Jérôme Salomon said the number of people in intensive care units fell to 3,878 from 4,019 on Thursday, down for a 23rd consecutive day.
The number of people in hospital with coronavirus also fell again to 25,887 from 26,283, also continuing an uninterrupted fall since more than two weeks.
Salomon said the daily death toll of 218 included 79 new fatalities at care homes for the elderly, where the total number of Covid-19 deaths has reached 9,225.
France is set for an easing of restrictions on May 11 following a strict nationwide lockdown, which was imposed on March 17.
In an address marking international Labour Day on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the exit from lockdown would not signal a return to “normal life”.
“There will be a recovery that will need to be reorganised,” Macron said. “There will be several phases and May 11 will be one of them.”
Monitoring disease’s ‘reproduction rate’
Earlier this week, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe unveiled a strategy for lifting the restrictions, including the compulsory use of face masks in public, increased testing, a phased reopening of schools and limiting movement between regions.
New social distancing methods will also be introduced on public transport and gatherings of a maximum of 10 people will be allowed after May 11, Philippe announced.
However, the government has warned that the loosening of restrictions will be conditional on a number of indicators that health officials are following closely.
Referring to one such indicator at his daily briefing on Friday, Salomon said the disease’s “reproduction rate”, known as the R0, had risen to between 0.6-0.7 on average from 0.5.
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“This is because of a progressive return to activity” after weeks of lockdown, the health official said.
Public health experts warn that a reproduction rate of 1 or above would make it impossible to loosen lockdowns.
A number of 0.7 means that, on average, 100 people infected with Covid-19 infect 70 other people. This would mean the number of new infections would come down over time.