France's coronavirus death toll soared past 10,000 last night after hundreds more deaths were announced in hospitals and care homes.
The tally of fatal cases went up by 1,417, rising from 8,911 to 10,328, making France the fourth country after Italy, Spain and the US to have a five-figure death toll.
In the last 24 hours, 597 people died in hospital. But France has also been adding thousands of deaths to the count in recent days after it started including data from nursing homes in its calculations.
Those care home deaths make up 3,237 of the total 10,328, or 31 per cent, with 7,091 deaths recorded in hospitals.
Meanwhile the total number of infections increased by 3,777, bringing the total from 74,390 to 78,167.
Jerome Salomon, head of France's public health authority, said the pandemic was still expanding in France despite four weeks of lockdown.
But he said the number of serious coronavirus cases being treated in intensive care units had risen by only 0.8 per cent in the previous 24 hours. This rate has fallen for eight days in a row.
'The need to find new ICU places is less urgent. But the balance of additional patients needing care remains positive, which means the pandemic is still expanding', Salomon said.
'We are in the ascending phase of the epidemic, even if it is slowing a bit,' he said, adding: 'we have not yet reached the peak.'
According to official figures, there are 29,871 people currently in hospital with coronavirus, of whom 40 per cent (12,074) are in the region around Paris.
The same Ile-de-France region also accounts for 37 per cent (2,627) of the total hospital deaths.
France is closely monitoring progress in Italy, where Europe's longest lockdown has brought the rate of new infections down to a record low.
French prime minister Edouard Philippe said the unwinding of the lockdown, which at this stage is supposed to run until April 15, would not 'happen overnight'.
The lockdown 'is difficult for many French people, I am fully aware of this. But it is essential if we do not wish to find ourselves in an even worse situation than the one we are experiencing today,' he said.
The lockdown measures were tightened yesterday when Parisians were banned from outdoor physical exercise during daylight hours.
Joggers and walkers were told they would be fined the equivalent of around £120 if found breaking the restrictions.
If they continue to infringe the conditions, then they will face up to six months in prison.
A police statement reads: 'From April 8, 2020, outings for individual sports activities will no longer be authorized between 10am and 7pm throughout the Paris area.
'They therefore remain authorised from 7pm to 10am, when the crowds in the streets are at their smallest.'
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and Didier Lallement, the police prefect, said in a joint statement that they had taken the decision to avoid 'any form of laxity' that would 'jeopardise the efforts made so far'.
Paris is now France's coronavirus epicentre, with cases in the city and its suburbs multiplying.
Fines worth some £650million have so far been handed out to those breaking lockdown conditions across the country.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.