France on Monday announced that more than 20,000 people had now died from the coronavirus in the country after 547 new deaths, even as tentative signs grew that the epidemic was steadying.
"Tonight, our country has passed a barrier that is symbolic and particularly painful," top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters, announcing a total death toll of 20,265 people while welcoming new falls in the numbers in hospital and intensive care.
The health chief said the coronavirus had now killed far more than all previous flu epidemics and even the deadly heatwave of 2003, when 19,000 died.
Salomon added however that the "speed of the epidemic had slowed rapidly."
Of the 20, 265 deaths, 12,513 had occurred in hospitals around the country and 7,752 in nursing homes.
France still counted more than 30,000 coronavirus patients in hospital including just under 6,000 in intensive care, although the numbers continued to fall.