Over 17,000 people have now died in France from COVID-19, a top health official said on Wednesday, but the the total number currently hospitalised has fallen for the first time since the epidemic began.

A total of 17,167 people are now confirmed to have died in France in hospitals and nursing homes, Jerome Salomon told reporters, compared with a total toll of 15,729 the day earlier.

But Salomon said the difference did not represent a daily toll due to the delayed collation of data from the Easter weekend.

In better news, he said there were currently 513 fewer coronavirus patients in hospital since the day before. "It remains very high but... the total shows for the first time a fall thanks to people who have been discharged."