(CN) – The United Kingdom and France are experiencing their worst days yet in the coronavirus pandemic with both countries reporting huge death tolls on Tuesday and officials warning grim weeks lie ahead.
“We are still in a worsening phase of the pandemic,” French Health Minister Olivier Véran told BFM TV, a French broadcaster, on Tuesday.
Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson being taken into intensive care on Monday after he contracted the virus, it was up to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deliver the U.K.'s worst death toll yet at a news conference Tuesday evening.
He reported 786 new deaths, raising the U.K.'s total death count to 6,159, the fifth highest in the world. Raab said Johnson was in stable condition.
“I’m confident he’ll pull through because if there’s one thing I know about this prime minister, he’s a fighter,” Raab said.
In France, 597 new hospital deaths were announced, bringing that country's total to more than 10,300, the fourth worst in the world after Italy, Spain and the United States. On Monday, France reported its worst daily death toll with 833 fatalities.
These death tolls, like those reported by other countries, are considered partial because many people dying at homes and nursing facilities are not included in death counts, often because those victims are not tested for the virus. France, though, has reported deaths in hospitals and nursing homes.
In Italy, the number of deaths and new infections has fallen for several days, indicating the worst may be over. It appears that Spain too may be reaching its peak. Still, the daily death tolls in both countries remain catastrophic and health experts warn fatalities will continue to add up for days and weeks to come.
On Tuesday, Spain reported 743 more deaths and Italy's toll rose by 604. In Italy, 17,127 people have died and Spain has recorded 13,798 fatalities.
Italian officials are growing more optimistic that a month-long nationwide lockdown is yielding results. The number of new infections rose by just over 3,000 on Tuesday, a continuation of a downward trend.
“Finally we are beginning to see a decline in the number of new cases,” said Gianni Rezza, the director of infectious diseases at the national health institute. “If we were to put it on an epidemological curve we'd see that after a phase of plateau there is a descent.”
Still, he warned that the virus poses serious risks even as fewer people contract it. “Naturally, we have to be very cautious and keep in mind that this virus will remain in the population,” he said. “Even if we got down to zero cases we can't give everyone free rein, we have to engage in a tough fight.”
Milan, Italy's financial capital and a city at the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, proved to be an especially encouraging sign for Italian authorities. In Milan, there were fewer than 100 new infections, a milestone on the city's path to recovery.
With the crisis in France deepening, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to deliver his third televised address this week and he likely will announce an extension to the nationwide lockdown, which is set to expire on April 15, French media reported. The U.K. is also expected to extend its lockdown.
Public confidence in Macron's handling of the pandemic has slipped, according to a poll by ELABE, a French research firm.
At first, Macron was hesitant to impose restrictions on France and he was criticized for allowing municipal elections to be held on March 15. Only two days later, he placed France under a nationwide lockdown.
On March 13, 59% percent of respondents to ELABE's poll said they trusted Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to handle the outbreak. But in recent polling, trust in their leadership has sunk to 41%. Still, Macron is enjoying a bump in his ratings, which were abysmal before the pandemic with only about 29% of French expressing trust in him.