France Virus Deaths Jump to 5,387 With Nursing Homes Added

(Bloomberg) -- France reported a jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday as the country included fatalities in some nursing homes for the first time. Still, a decline in intensive-care admissions suggest the country’s lockdown is starting to slow the pace of the outbreak.

The health ministry reported 471 new hospital deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday. In addition, it reported 884 deaths in a partial count from nursing homes, bringing the total number to 5,387. Nursing homes weren’t previously included in the statistics.

France is the third-hardest hit country in Europe in number of deaths, behind Italy and Spain, and has evacuated patients from the Paris region and northeast France as hospitals there run out of intensive-care beds. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Wednesday that the epidemic hasn’t reached its peak in the Paris region,and coming days would be even more difficult.

Nationwide, however, intensive-care admissions appear to be stabilizing. The number of patients in ICU beds rose by 382 to 6,399. That rise has slowed for the past three days.

“We’ve never had so many seriously ill patients in France,” said Jerome Salomon, the head of France’s public health agency.

Salomon has repeatedly emphasized ICU admissions as the best measure for the intensity of the virus’ spread and its impact on the French healthcare system. On that front, he said there were signs of improvement. “In the coming days we expect a reduced pressure on the intensive care services.”

Spain, Italy Deaths

Spain reported 950 more deaths from the coronavirus, the most in a single day, taking the total to 10,003 on Thursday and suggesting containment measures there have yet to slow the epidemic. Italy reported 760 deaths Thursday, up from 727 a day earlier.

In Italy, the first country in Europe to implement lockdown measures in early March, the growth of new infections slowed, while the number of hospitalized patients rose at the slowest pace in at least a month. The country has extended a nationwide lockdown for another two weeks until April 13.

In France, the number of confirmed cases increased by 2,116 to 59,105, a sharp slowdown from a day earlier.

Lifting Lockdown

Even as cases increase, the French government is already looking at how to lift the stay-at-home measures that were implemented more than two weeks ago. The country probably won’t end its lockdown in a single step and will unveil its strategy to end the confinement in coming days, Philippe said at a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.

French businesses have rushed to claim government aid to keep workers on their payroll amid the health crisis. Partial unemployment measures allow workers to keep their jobs while getting paid 84% of their net salary by the state.

As of Thursday, 400,000 companies had applied for aid to cover 4 million workers, or around 20% of private-sector employees. France’s government expects the measure to cost close to 11 billion euros ($11.9 billion), after initially earmarking 8.5 billion euros over two months.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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