weeks of the pandemic were still to come for the country as deaths climbed by 418 in the space of 24 hours.
The latest deaths mean only Italy, Spain and China have recorded greater loss of life linked to the pandemic.
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Among those to die across the weekend in France was a doctor who had been close to retirement and was providing frontline medical care for those suffering with the virus.
“We will use this rage from his death to fight more and more and be tougher than this virus,” Aurelien Rousseau, director general of the Paris region health authority, said in a letter which has since been made public.
While deaths increased by 16 per cent to 3,024, the number of intensive care cases rose by 10 per cent to 5,107. The increase marked the first rise in the figure after a hopeful two days of decline in ICU referrals.
“Today in the pulmonology unit we are as full as full can be,” said Jerome Pinot, a physician at the Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris.
“To find a place in intensive care is a never-ending headache. We ask ourselves whether we can move this patient to this unit to take another patient. It’s an incessant game.”
Hundreds of patients have been evacuated from hospitals in France’s hardest hit areas, with some carried by military aircraft and high-speed trains during transfers to medical facilities elsewhere in the country and even in Germany.
Officials hope the strategy will ease the strain on stricken regions so that areas including Paris could again take patients once the expected peak of the outbreak is over in two weeks time.
It comes as the nation’s health officials wait to see if a national lockdown will begin to turn the tide against the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 37,000 people worldwide and infected more than 780,000.
“We are not in a drop at the moment. We hope that this increase will be more modest in the coming days”, said Jerome Salomon, head of the French public health authority.
“The growth phase of the epidemic in the region will probably last two weeks,” said Pierre Delobel, head of the infectious and tropical diseases unit at the University Hospital in Toulouse, where the number of cases has jumped from eight to 40 in a week.
“Then there will be a slowdown but that does not mean a decrease, it will go up less quickly”.