(Bloomberg) — France reported 3,201 new coronavirus cases, the most in four days, bringing the total to 181,373. The number of patients in hospitals and intensive care continued to decline.

Deaths linked to the virus rose by 544 to 21,340 fatalities, Director General for Health Jerome Salomon said at a briefing in Paris on Wednesday. The number of deaths has been largely stable in the past three days.

The country has been on lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the outbreak, and confinement measures have been extended to May. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said the government will unveil plans to progressively lift the restrictions.

“We’re in a preparation phase for the second stage — I’m not talking about going back to normal life — we don’t know how long it will last for after May 11,” President Emmanuel Macron said on a visit to a supermarket in western France, where he sought to thank staff who have continued to work amid the lockdown. “The share of population that’s immunized, even in affected regions, is small. We need to lower the number of daily cases in the country for the situation to be manageable.”

Based on the situation in France mid-March, confinement was the only possible strategy, according to Macron. Lifting the measures might happen faster in places where the virus hasn’t spread, “that’s part of the strategy the government is working on,” he said.

Hospitalizations Fall

The number of patients in intensive care, which Salomon has said is an indicator of the outbreak’s impact on France’s hospital system, has been falling for two weeks, dropping on Wednesday by 215 to 5,218. The overall number of hospitalized patients fell for an eighth day day to 29,741, the lowest since April 6.

Even as the overall number of patients in hospitals and intensive care declines, Salomon repeated that the virus continues to circulate at a high level in France, with hundreds of people newly hospitalized every day.

“This epidemic is massive; it’s severe,” Salomon said. “We must all comply with confinement and social distancing.”

Story continues

France’s public-health service on Tuesday revised down the number of reported coronavirus cases in nursing homes, putting total cases in the country at 178,172 infections, lower than the total reported a day earlier. France’s daily coronavirus figures have fluctuated amid inconsistent reporting from nursing homes, which were first included in the tally this month, and which includes probable cases based on symptoms.

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