By Cindi Cook
PARIS (AA) - France on Saturday outlined a strategy to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The fight has just begun. The first 15 days of April will be difficult, harder than those we have just gone through," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said at a news conference alongside Health Minister Olivier Veran.
The duo were accompanied by Dr. Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist of emerging diseases and Director General of Health Jerome Salomon.
Saturday's fatalities from the coronavirus stands at 2,314 in France, up 319 from Friday. The number of reported infections is 37,575, with 4,273 people in intensive care.
The ministers stressed the importance of lockdown and social distancing to curb the spread of the virus; types of tests and how they will be conducted in large numbers; and the ongoing need for masks and respirators.
The number of tests has been increased this week from 5,000 to 12,000 tests per day.
"France has already ordered 5 million rapid test kits, which will allow us to increase our screening capacity by 30,000 tests per day in April, 60,000 in May, 100,000 in June," the prime minister said.
In addition, 13 clinical research projects are underway in the country, with a dozen set to obtain quick clinical approval.
"We produce eight million masks every week; we consume 40 million," the health minister said.
He spoke of the reorientation of the textile and paper industry for increased production of masks, especially for non-nursing staff.
The prime minister said France will fight the epidemic to the end.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 177 countries and territories, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
The data shows over 649,900 cases have been reported worldwide since last December, with the death toll above 30,200 and over 137,200 recoveries.