PARIS: The coronavirus has killed another 240 people in France, the top French health official said on Tuesday (Mar 24), bringing the death toll in the country from the pandemic to 1,100.
Jerome Salomon told reporters that 22,300 people had tested positive for the virus in France, with a total of 10,176 hospitalised of whom 2,516 people are in intensive care.
Officials believe that the published number of those infected largely underestimates the real figure, as only those showing severe symptoms are usually tested.
Salomon also emphasised that the death toll of 1,100 includes only those recorded to have died of the coronavirus in hospitals and not those who pass away in old people's homes.
He said that the hospital deaths were only a part of the total toll and vowed to give data on mortality in old people's homes in the next days.
A military field hospital set up by the French army began operations on Tuesday seeking to take the pressure off intensive care units in an eastern region badly hit by the coronavirus.
The field hospital, a temporary structure of tents usually employed to assist the wounded in a war zone, has been erected in the eastern French city of Mulhouse where the intensive care unit of the main hospital has been overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told parliament that the field hospital could admit up to 30 patients in intensive care and had now already admitted its first patient.
Construction of the hospital began on Saturday in a parking lot next to the main hospital in Mulhouse. It will be reserved for severe coronavirus cases that need respiratory help.
The construction of such a facility, usually used in war, in mainland France during peacetime is unprecedented.
The Haut-Rhin region in eastern France where Mulhouse is located has been one of the worst hit in the country by the coronavirus, after an evangelical church meeting in the city in February where many people were infected.
In another hugely unusual move, France will on Wednesday use a specially set-up TGV high speed train to evacuate 30 coronavirus patients from the east to other parts of France, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced.
Smaller numbers have already been evacuated from the overwhelmed hospitals of the east by air to other locations in France and also over the border into Germany or Switzerland.