PARIS: The coronavirus death toll in France rose to 22,279, world's fourth-highest after the United States, Italy and Spain, Director-General of Health Jerome Salomon told a daily conference on the epidemic.
The number of people who succumbed to the COVID-19 increased by 1.8 per cent on a daily basis, lower than 2.4 per cent on Thursday and 2.6 per cent on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
Hospitalization data reported a "slow and steady decline," providing relief to caregivers. Patients in intensive care units fell by 183 to 4,870, below the country's original capacity of 5,000 beds.
Despite the encouraging signs, "the circulation of the virus remains at a high level," Salomon warned.
"We have to continue our collective efforts in order to reach the lowest level of virus circulation on May 11. To succeed the de-confinement, we must succeed together in the confinement by strictly respecting barrier gestures and social distancing," he said.
A study published on Thursday by French School of Public Health (EHESP) said lockdown measures might have prevented 60,000 deaths in France.
"It's very probable that we have collectively saved tens of thousands of lives by respecting confinement, and maybe even more," Health Minister Olivier Veran told France Inter, a French national public general radio station, early in the day.
"(The study) demonstrates the need for and the success of containment, which needs to be maintained for several more weeks," he said.
The French government is set to ease lockdown on May 11 by favouring a progressive return to everyday life, increasing tests and launching a contact tracing app to help stem a resurgence of the virus.