Rate of France coronavirus deaths accelerates for third day

on Tuesday reported its highest daily number of deaths from COVID-19 since the coronavirus epidemic began, saying 499 more people had died in hospital to bring the toll to 3,523. There are now 22,757 people hospitalised in France with COVID-19, with 5,565 of them in intensive care, health official Jerome Salomon told reporters in his daily update.

French health authorities reported 499 new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday, taking the total to 3,523, an increase of 17% in the past 24 hours.

It was the third consecutive day that the rate of deaths accelerated in France, which is now in its third week of lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The daily government tally only accounts for those dying in hospital but authorities say they will very soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.

State health agency director Jerome Salomon told a news conference that the number of cases had risen to 52,128, a rise of 17% in 24 hours, probably due to the fact that France has been ramping up testing

Salomon said 5,565 people were in a serious condition needing life support, up 9% compared to Monday, a rate of increase slightly slower compared to previous days. The health system is struggling to cope with the pace of the outbreak.

France has increased the number of beds in intensive care units from 5,000 to about 10,000 since the start of the crisis and it is scrambling to reach 14,500.

In the morning hours, President Emmanuel Macron visited a factory producing medical masks to both show support and announce an additional €4 billion ($4.4 billion) to fund the production of masks, respirators, and supplies.

The production of masks will reach 15 million per week by end of April, Macron promised.

The factory Macron visited, PME Kolmi-Hopen, is the largest of four companies in France producing surgical and filtering face masks. They are operating round-the-clock to meet the demand.

An Air France cargo plane also landed at Paris-Vatry Airport on Tuesday carrying 10 million masks purchased from China for nationwide use. Additional medical supplies were also on board.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the virus has spread to at least 179 countries and regions, according to the U.S-based Johns Hopkins University database.

More than 826,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide, with the death toll over 40,700 and over 174,000 recoveries.

Despite the severity of the virus, most people experience mild symptoms and recover in due time.

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