France’s prime minister Edouard Philippe said on Sunday that the coronavirus situation in the country is improving “slowly but surely” and that shortages of protective gear are easing.

Philippe said that, in the past week, France had imported around 81 million masks. By June, the country will also have secured 15,000 more ventilators and another 15,000 less heavy-duty versions.

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He warned, however, that the crisis was far from over. With 19,718 deaths, France has the fourth-highest toll from the virus in the world.

The country is due to lift some confinement measures from 11 May, starting with the reopening of schools as it will enter a second phase. The government has also said that some stores will reopen, but people will still have to maintain safe distances from each other.

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Philippe said that falls in the number of people in intensive care were one of the encouraging signals that pressures on hospitals were easing. Elderly people in nursing homes account for nearly 40% of the coronavirus fatalities in the country.


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