France's coronavirus death toll passes 23,000

PARIS (Reuters) – France became the fourth country to report more than 23,000 coronavirus-linked fatalities on Monday, while the number of new confirmed cases rose at its sharpest pace in almost two weeks.

The latest figures from the Health Ministry come a day before Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due to present to parliament the government’s plan to unwind national lockdown that has been in place since March 17 and is due to expire on May 11.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 – the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus – fell for the 13th day running to 28,055, while the number of people in intensive care decreased for the 19th consecutive time to 4,608.

But the number of deaths rose by 437 to 23,293, its sharpest rate of increase in four days. And the total number of confirmed cases was up 3,764, at 128,339. This 3% increase was the highest since April 14.

The number of probable cases in nursing homes was more or less stable at 37,503, giving an overall total of confirmed and probable cases of 165,842 cases.

In its statement, the Health Ministry also mentioned “promising results” in a clinical trial, led by Paris University Hospital AP-HP, involving tocilizumab, which is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The 129 patients involved in the trial were selected on the basis of hospitalisation for moderate or severe COVID-19 pneumonia, but did not require resuscitation at the time of admission.

“It has been established that the patients treated with tocilizumab showed a lesser need of ventilation and a lesser death rate after 14 days of treatment,” the health ministry said, adding the results would be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

“The is the first tested drug where a positive effect is seen in a clinical trial.”

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi said on Monday the results of a study of their rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara indicated it may only help the sickest coronavirus patients, dampening hopes the medicine could benefit a wider group of those infected.

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