Rate of France coronavirus deaths accelerates for third day

FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - French health authorities reported 499 new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday, taking the total to 3,523, an increase of 17% in the past 24 hours.

It was the third consecutive day that the rate of deaths accelerated in France, which is now in its third week of lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The daily government tally only accounts for those dying in hospital but authorities say they will very soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.

State health agency director Jerome Salomon told a news conference that the number of cases had risen to 52,128, a rise of 17% in 24 hours, probably due to the fact that France has been ramping up testing

Salomon said 5,565 people were in a serious condition needing life support, up 9% compared to Monday, a rate of increase slightly slower compared to previous days. The health system is struggling to cope with the pace of the outbreak.

France has increased the number of beds in intensive care units from 5,000 to about 10,000 since the start of the crisis and it is scrambling to reach 14,500.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Christian Lowe)