French coronavirus death toll rises to nearly 70,000

Testing site for COVID-19 in France
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PARIS (Reuters) - The cumulative death toll from the coronavirus in France rose by 636 to 69,949 on Monday as the country added a three-day batch of retirement home deaths to the tally, health ministry data showed on Friday.

France reported 280 deaths in hospitals, down from 282 on Thursday, and 356 deaths in retirement homes.

National statistics institute INSEE said France's overall mortality rate in 2020 - inflated by the pandemic - was 9% higher than in the previous two years, with a total of 667,400 deaths from all causes, or 53,900 more than in 2019.

The health ministry also reported 21,271 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, after 21,228 on Thursday and 19,814 last Friday.

The seven-day moving average of new cases now stands at nearly 18,000, from just over 13,000 at the end of 2020.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that the year-end festivities had not led to a spike in new infections, but the government brought a night curfew forward by two hours to 6 p.m. and tightened border controls.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 was up by 26 to 25,043 and the number in intensive care rose by 14 to 2,740, well within the government target of 2,500 to 3,000.

(Reporting by GV De Clercq; Editing by Toby Chopra and Giles Elgood)