France reports spike in coronavirus deaths, raising total to 26,643

France softens lockdown rules during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

PARIS (Reuters) - Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in France rose by 263 on Monday, against 70 the day before, the Health ministry said, as the country started unwinding an almost two-month national lockdown put in place to contain the spread of the disease.

In percentage points, the 1% rise is the highest in five days. But figures often tend to register a spike after the weekend lull.

The total death toll since the outbreak now stands at 26,643 the ministry said, the fifth highest in the world after those of the United States, Britain, Italy and Spain.

There were 2,712 people in intensive care on Monday, edging down from 2,776 on Sunday, maintaining a long-running decline.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Chris Reese)