Coronavirus death toll in France rises above 2,500 after almost 300 fatalities in 24 hours

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Medical staff prepare their gear at Saint-Jean train station in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on March 29, 2020, at the end of a transfer of patients infected with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) into a medicalised TGV high-speed train from eastern France to hospitals in the southwest of the country. - Two medicalised TGVs that left the Grand Est region on Sunday morning to evacuate 36 patients infected with the novel coronavirus and bring them to Nouvelle-Aquitaine arrived in themid-afternoon, one in Poitiers and the other one in Bordeaux. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)

The death toll from coronavirus continued to rise on Sunday as health chiefs reported another 292 deaths, bringing the overall total since the epidemic began to 2,606.

French health chief Jérôme Salomon also said the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care had risen by 359 in the last 24 hours to a total of 4,632.

Some 34 percent of those in intensive care were under the age of 60, Salomon reported.

In total there were 19,354 patients in hospitals across France being treated for coronavirus. Salomon also said 7,132 patients are now known to have fully recovered from the virus.

The death toll of 2,606 is likely to rise given that it only includes those who died in hospitals. A rising number of coronavirus patients are known to have died in care homes for the elderly.

In recent days authorities have been warning that the situation will worsen in the Paris region of Île-de-France, where 823 people have now died.

Health authorities in the region reported another 1,176 confirmed cases on Sunday bringing the total since the epidemic began to over 12,000. However the real number is likely far higher.

There were some 1,694 patients in intensive care in the Paris region on Sunday, a rise of 6.1 percent in 24 hours.

On Saturday evening French PM Edouard Philippe warned that the first 15 days of April will be more difficult than the 15 previous 15 days.

On Sunday March 29th France staged its largest evacuation of coronavirus patients to date from hospitals in the hard-hit east, increasing efforts to free up intensive care units as officials brace for even more serious cases in the coming days.

Two specially modified TGV high-speed trains carried 36 patients from Mulhouse and Nancy toward hospitals along France’s western coast, where the outbreak has been limited so far.

Dozens of hospital workers, flanked by police and soldiers standing guard, spent hours installing four patients in each wagon in an operation that began before dawn.

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“We have to free up beds, it’s absolutely crucial that we air out these intensive care units. We’re still seeing an increase in patient numbers,” said Francois Brun, head of emergency services at the regional hospital in nearby Metz.

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