France reports 544 new coronavirus deaths as hospital numbers continue to drop

France on Wednesday reported 544 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.

France reports 544 new coronavirus deaths as hospital numbers continue to drop
France has seen a steady decline in the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals and intensive care units over the past days, as the country began to see the impact of its strict nationwide lockdow

The total toll from the epidemic in France has now risen to 21,340, top health official Jérôme Salomon told reporters, while adding that there were now 365 fewer coronavirus patients in hospital and 215 fewer intensive care compared with the day earlier.

The number of patients suffering with COVID-19 in intensive care in France has now fallen every day for two weeks in a row.

There are now 5,218 coronavirus patients in intensive care in France, down from a peak of 7,148 on April 8th.

Salomon said that despite signs of improving trends in the data, the spread of the virus in France “remains at a high level and we need to respect the confinement”.

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

Over the last days France has been abuzz with speculation over how the so-called “de-confinement” will proceed on May 11th, with the government yet to unveil its concrete plan.

According to Macron, schools could gradually reopen then but cafes, cinemas and cultural venues would remain closed.

The president is due to hold a video conference on Friday with representatives of the tourism and restaurant sector and there has been speculation that bars and restaurants could be allowed to open from June 15th.

But government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said she could not confirm this, adding that more time was needed “to work out the different scenarios for resuming activity”.

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Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

This weekend represents the first chance to 'faire le pont' and have a long holiday weekend - and the French seem set to make the most of it with warnings of extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday.

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

Thursday, May 26th marks the Christian festival of Ascension and is a public holiday in France.

More importantly, it’s the first time this year that French workers have had the opportunity to faire le pont (do the bridge) and create a long weekend.

In France, most public holidays fall on different days each year and if they happen to fall on the weekend then there are no extra days off work.

This year that happened on New Year’s Day (a Saturday) and both of the early May public holidays (the workers’ holiday on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th, which both fell on a Sunday).

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays

But as Ascension is on a Thursday, workers have the option to take a day of annual leave on Friday and therefore create a nice four-day weekend.

And it appears that many are planning on doing just that, as the traffic forecaster Bison futé is predicting extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday evening, as people prepare to make their after-work getaway and head to the coast, the countryside or the mountains to fully profit from their holiday weekend.

According to Bison futé maps, the whole country is coloured red – very heavy traffic – on both Wednesday and Thursday as people take to the roads to leave the cities.

Map: Bison futé

Meanwhile Sunday is coloured black – the highest level, meaning extremely heavy traffic and difficult driving conditions – across the whole country. 

Map: Bison futé

If you were hoping to take the train instead you might be out of luck, SNCF reports that most TGV services are sold out for over the holiday weekend.