PARIS, March 21 (Xinhua) -- France on Saturday reported 112 new COVID-19 deaths, and infection cases rose by 1,847 to 14,459.
A total of 6,172 people are hospitalized, including 1,525 patients in intensive care, of whom 50 percent are younger than 60 years old, according to figures updated by the Ministry of Health.
With grim figures suggesting no near sign of a slowed down spread of coronavirus, the ministry reiterated the absolute necessity to respect the barrier gestures and the confinement rules.
Earlier in the afternoon, Minister of Health Olivier Veran told press that next Monday the government's scientific council will make an announcement on the length and extent of the emergency measures.
France has been under lockdown since Tuesday. Only journeys for professional reasons, the purchases of basic necessities or essential health and family needs are allowed. Non-compliance with the rules risks a fine of 135 euros (145 USD).
Till Saturday noon, 867,695 checks have been carried out across the country and 38,994 fines were issued, said the police.
In his press conference, the health minister also announced that France had ordered "more than 250 million masks", intended in particular for health personnel who denounce a dire shortage of the protective gear.
Some 70 million masks had been delivered, mostly to hospitals and health professionals, since the last week of February. Currently France has a "state stock" of 86 million masks, including 5 million FFP2 masks, the rest being surgical masks, said Veran.
"We anticipate a need of 24 million masks per week,"said Veran,adding that for the distribution of masks in next two weeks, priority will be given to health workers and people caring the elderly.
The government was aware from the start (of the epidemic) that this situation "was going to be a difficulty," said Veran. "We are working day and night to increase the production and import of protective masks."
In early March the French government decided to requisition all stock and production of masks in the country.
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