By Agence France-Presse
France on Wednesday reported 278 new deaths from coronavirus but also announced a steep fall in the number of hospital patients, as the country prepares to gradually ease its lockdown.
The health ministry said 25,809 people were now confirmed to have died from the virus in hospitals and nursing homes.
Over the past 24 hours, 278 people died from COVID-19, a slight dip from 330 deaths confirmed on Tuesday.
France is due to emerge on May 11 from a lockdown that began in mid-March, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe due to announce on Thursday how this initial easing will take shape.
Shops will be allowed to open but cafes and restaurants are staying shut. Some schools are also due to open, in a strategy that has caused some controversy.
As well as a decline in death rates on Wednesday, France also reported 283 fewer patients suffering from the coronavirus in intensive care, making a total of 3,147.
Nationwide, there were 23,983 patients in hospital, 792 fewer than the previous day.