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HEALTH

Coronavirus death toll in France passes 19,000 but hospital patient numbers continue to fall

France on Saturday reported 642 more deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals and nursing homes over the last 24 hours, but registered new falls in the total numbers of coronavirus patients in hospitals and intensive care.

Coronavirus death toll in France passes 19,000 but hospital patient numbers continue to fall
A man deliver food to costumers from a cafe in Paris, on April 18, 2020 during the 33rd day of a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronaviru

The new deaths — 364 in hospitals and 278 in nursing homes — brought the total toll in the country from the epidemic to 19,323, the French health ministry said in a statement.

However in a continuation of a trend seen over the last days the number of coronavirus patients in hospital fell by 551 to 30,639. The numbers in intensive care meanwhile fell by 194 to 5,833.

This was the fourth consecutive day there has been a fall in the numbers in hospital and the tenth day in a row there has been a fall in the numbers in intensive care.

“The fall in the demand for equipment and human resources in intensive care is continuing, but it is still at an exceptional level, far higher than the usual level in France,” the statement said.

On Friday France's Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon said: “It's a slow but steady drop.”

“The first wave was very much alleviated by all the French people, by respecting physical and social distancing measures, by respecting confinement and 'barrier measures',” said Salomon.

“We have strongly broken the epidemic which at the beginning was very contagious, with a virus that was being transmitted to a very large number of people,” said Salomon.

But the health chief warned: “After the confinement the French will also have the responsibility to curb the risk of the virus. It will still be present in Europe.”

France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic. But President Emmanuel Macron announced this week that the lockdown could begin to be eased from May 11.

Schools could gradually reopen then, he said — but cafes, cinemas and cultural venues would remain closed, and there could be no summer festivals until mid-July at the earliest.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Health Minister Olivier Veran are due on Sunday to give a news conference on how France is dealing with the virus. 

They are expected to be pressed on how the lockdown can be eased from May 11.

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HEALTH

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

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