France on Monday reported that 833 more people had died from coronavirus infections in hospitals and nursing homes over the previous 24 hours, its highest daily toll since the epidemic began.
"We have not reached the end of the ascent of this epidemic," Health Minster Olivier Véran told reporters as he announced the new record toll after several days during which the key data had appeared to improve.
Véran said the latest fatalities had brought the total number killed in the coronavirus epidemic in France to 8,911.
The figures were a reminder to France, which has been in lockdown since March 17, that the coronavirus fight was far from won.
France is now giving a daily combined toll of deaths in hospitals and nursing homes. Previously it had only given the hospital toll on a daily basis.
Of the new deaths, 605 were registered in hospitals, Véran said.
'The path is long'
"It is not over. Far from that. The path is long. The figures that I have announced show this," he said. "Stay at home and continue this confinement effort," he added
Véran said that 478 more people had gone into intensive care over the last 24 hours, a higher figure than in previous days.
But in more positive news, the health minister said more patients were also leaving intensive care, resulting in a net total of "only" 94 more patients in intensive care, the lowest such figure since the confinement began.
"We see that the confinement has a palpable impact. In France we are beginning to feel it," he added.
Testing campaign at care homes
Véran said that the latest figures from statistical modelling showed that the reproduction rate -- the number of people an average infected person infects -- was falling in France.
If the number is under 1.0 it means the average victim infects less than one person, giving hope that the epidemic will end.
"Thanks to the confinement, this rate is around 1.0 and probably a little under and in some regions clearly under," he explained, though adding: "In other regions it is above 1.0 so this is why we must stay at home."
Véran said that in nursing homes, where a total of 2,417 people have died since the start of the epidemic, a "vast operation" of testing would begin to better protect residents.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)