PARIS (Reuters) – France said its total death toll from COVID-19 infections rose above 15,000 on Tuesday, becoming the fourth country to exceed that threshold after Italy, Spain and the United States, while the rate of increase in cases and fatalities is re-accelerating.

But the number of people in intensive care units fell to 6,730 from 6,821 over 24 hours – declining for a sixth consecutive day, suggesting the national lockdown put in place on March 17 is having some success in containing the disease.

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron announced a second extension of this lockdown until May 11, saying that progress had been made but also that the country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to surmount the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, told a news conference that the number of COVID-19 deaths in French hospitals and nursing homes had risen by 5% in a day to a cumulative total of 15,729, versus 4% on Monday and Sunday.

He added that the total number of confirmed infections had climbed by 5.3% to 103,573, compared to a rate of increase of 2.8% on Monday and of 1.7% on Sunday.

There were also 26,680 suspected coronavirus cases in nursing homes, taking the total to more than 130,000 confirmed and possible cases, the fifth highest in the world.

According to various running simulations, Salomon said that, depending on calculations for different regions, 5%-10% of the French population had probably contracted the disease.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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