PARIS (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus deaths in France is much higher than the daily government record, which only takes into account those who die in hospitals, a senior French health official said on Wednesday.
A security guard stands next to beds in the Festival Palace when the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, decided to open part of the palace to welcome the needy and the homeless as a ban is imposed to reduce the rate of coronavirus disease (COVID- 19) slow down in France. March 24, 2020. REUTERS / Eric Gaillard
France reported a total of 1,100 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, up from 91 on March 14, a more than tenfold increase in eleven days and an average increase of 28% per day, according to data from Reuters.
“We only know the data from hospitals,” said Frederic Valletoux, President of the French Hospital Association, on France Info Radio.
“The increase in official data is already significant, but the absolute numbers would undoubtedly be much higher if we summarized what happens in retirement homes and the people who die or are not counted at home.”
Health Department chief Jerome Salomon said Tuesday that the authorities would soon be able to record deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to lead to a sharp increase in registered deaths.
French media have reported dozens of coronavirus deaths in retirement homes, with up to 15 people killed in just one facility in eastern France. Le Monde reported 39 deaths in retirement homes in the Ile-de-France region of Paris on Monday, saying privately owned homes were reluctant to report data.
Valletoux said it is difficult to say when the rate of growth of new infections and deaths will slow down and whether France will actually lag Italy, the country with the highest virus death rate, by about eight days.
“The inclusion and testing procedures are very different in the two countries, even between regions in Italy,” he said.
In France, which introduced a nationwide ban on March 17, the number of new infections increased by an average of 26% per day in March, but on Tuesday the rate slowed to an average of 15%.
“We don’t know when the climax will come, but we’re still in the ascending phase,” said Valletoux.
He also said the number of infections is difficult to compare with other countries because France doesn’t test as many people as neighboring countries.
“We don’t have the means to test everyone … Italy tests a lot more people, and Germans test 10 to 20 times more people than we do,” he said.
Health chief Salomon said Tuesday that France could soon do 10,000 tests a day.
Reporting by Geert de Clercq; Edited by Hugh Lawson and Angus MacSwan