The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France jumped by nearly 987 or 8% to 13,197 as nursing home deaths swelled but fewer people were in intensive care as the effect of nationwide confinement started to show.
The total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus infections in the country rose by 7,120 to 124,869, although the ministry does not provide a total, splitting the number instead between cases in hospitals and cases in nursing homes.
That total number is set to increase as just under 5,000 out of 7,400 homes so far have reported coronavirus cases to the government, a ministry official told Reuters.
The health ministry said on Friday that 7,004 people were in intensive care, a fall of 62 or 0.9% following a 1% fall on Thursday.
"We seem to be reaching a plateau, albeit a high level," health ministry director Jerome Salomon told a daily press briefing by video.
But the death toll picked up again, with the number of people dying in hospitals up by 554 or 7% to 8,598 on Friday, after increasing 5% on Thursday.
The number of people who died in nursing homes - according to incomplete data that cover several days and do not include all nursing homes - went up by 433 or 10% to 4,599 and now make up more than a third of the total toll.
A Paris nursing home where more than 20 people have died had not yet reported its death toll to the government, a health official said on Friday.
The number of registered coronavirus infections also kept growing quickly. Unlike other major countries such as Italy, Spain and the United States, which report one single overall number for coronavirus cases, France reports two separate tallies: one for hospitals and one for nursing homes.
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in hospitals grew by 5% for the fourth day in a row and reached 90,676.
The number of cases in nursing homes - which includes confirmed, probable and possible cases - jumped by 2,778 or 9% to 34,193.
The widely followed Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 page http://www.drstat.com, which tallies confirmed and presumptive positive cases, put the combined number at 125,930, which sets France in fourth place behind the United States, Spain and Italy.
A ministry official said the hospital and nursing home cases cannot simply be added up as there is some overlap, since some confirmed cases in nursing homes are included in the number of confirmed cases in hospitals.
To determine the presence of COVID-19 in nursing homes, France only tests the first three presumed cases. Other residents showing symptoms are presumed to be infected.
The ministry could not immediately provide a breakdown of confirmed and probable cases in nursing homes but said it is working to sort out the issue.