France reported 471 more deaths in hospital from COVID-19 on Thursday, as it revealed almost 900 people had died after catching the disease in old people's homes since the coronavirus epidemic began.
The latest daily toll, a slight drop on previous days, brought the country's official toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 4,503.
These figures include only those who died in hospital and not those who died at home or in old people's homes.
However top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters for the first time that an initial count had shown 884 people had died in old people's homes since the epidemic began.
If combined with the hospital toll, this would mean at least 5,387 people have died from COVID-19 in France since the outbreak began.
Some 26,000 people remain hospitalised in France with 6,399 in intensive care, 382 more than the day earlier but an increase that has also slowed over this week.
France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic, with only essential trips allowed outside that have to be justified with a signed piece of paper.
Speaking live on TF1 television, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it was essential that people in France respected the lockdown rules.
"This is the only way for the health service to overcome the peak" of the virus, he said.
With the traditional spring break approaching, Philippe sternly warned the French against considering holidays away.
"There cannot be any going away on holidays. There will be checks. All those who violate the rules will see themselves punished," he said.
But he said that the French health system — which has ramped up its intensive care capacity — was bearing up amid the crisis.
"I want to tell the French that the dam is holding," he said. "And we must all act together so it continues to hold."
There have been reports from some regional hospitals that they were under less pressure but Salomon said it was too early to say if the confinement was having an effect.
"I would be very careful, there is an incubation phase of a week and a delay in severe cases appearing," he said.
"The evaluation of the impact of the confinement can take place at the end of the week or over the weekend. We should start to have an impact on admissions to hospital and intensive care in particular."
"When we have the good news from the ground so much the better. But let's be careful," he said.