France's coronavirus death toll rises to 13,832

FLE PHOTO: French rescue team wearing protective suits carry a patient on a stretcher from Mulhouse hospital before being loaded into a helicopter as France faces an aggressive progression of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak rose to nearly 14,000 on Saturday, but the number of patients in intensive care fell for the third day in a row, raising hopes that a nationwide lockdown is curbing the spread of the disease.

The number of people in intensive care units fell to 6,883 from 7,004 a day before, down nearly 2%, while the number of people in hospital virtually stabilised at 31,320, up by just 53 or 0.2%, ministry data showed.

The total death toll rose by 635 or 5% to 13,832 - with 8,943 dead in hospital and 4,889 in nursing homes - but that was less than on Friday, when the total toll rose by 987 as nursing home deaths soared.

“We are confronting a massive and murderous epidemic, which has reached an unprecedented level,” health ministry director Jerome Salomon said at a daily briefing.

He said new cases kept arriving at hospitals and the French people needed to remain vigilant.

The ministry reported that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in France rose by 3,114 to 93,790, an increase of 3.4%, which was slower than the 5% seen over the previous four days.

The number of cases in nursing homes rose by 1,671 or 5% to 35,864. For the first time, the ministry gave a breakdown of those numbers, saying that 11,175 of the nursing home cases were confirmed cases already included in the confirmed cases tally. It added that another 24,689 cases were possible cases.

France does not test all suspected COVID-19 patients in nursing homes. Once two or three cases are confirmed by testing in one home, other residents with symptoms of the disease are tallied as possible or probable cases.

Adding the possible cases in nursing homes to the confirmed cases, France had a total of 118,479 confirmed or possible cases of coronavirus as of Saturday.

Reporting by Jean-Philippe Lefief and Maya Nikolaeva; Additional reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Daniel Wallis