France mask covid subway paris
People wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus walk in a subway hub after work at la Defense business district in Paris. Image Credit: AP

Paris: France became the latest country to record more than 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19.

The threshold was reached after 300 fatalities were registered over the past 24 hours, bringing the official toll to 100,077, a spokeswoman for the French public health authority said by phone.

The country now has the eighth-highest total number of coronavirus deaths in the world, according to the Bloomberg coronavirus tracker, about a year after its first cases were recorded.

It’s a humbling moment for President Emmanuel Macron, who refused to lock down the country for a third time in January despite calls to do so from the medical community and the government’s own scientific advisory committee. He argued that would be a last resort given the human and financial cost for the economy, and instead tightened curbs in Covid hot spots, like the Paris region of Ile-de-France and Provence in the south.

Yet deaths continued to climb as variants spread, prompting the French leader to eventually implement additional restrictions in March that effectively amount to another lockdown.

With Macron up for re-election in 12 months time, the speed with which he can get the pandemic under control and reopen the economy could play a critical role in shaping his political future.

The pandemic has been “cruel,” especially to those “who sometimes were not able to accompany - during the last moments and in death - a father, a mother, a loved one, a friend,” the president told Le Parisien newspaper.

He has been weighing how best to mark the grim milestone, and for the moment his office hasn’t released the details of any plans. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday only that there will obviously be “a time of tribute, of mourning for the nation.”

France is now ranked third in Europe for fatalities.

Deeply sorry

The U.K. became the first European country to cross the 100,000 death mark at the end of January. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was deeply sorry for every life lost and that the government had done everything it could. Italy, the original epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, reached what Prime Minister Mario Draghi called the “terrible threshold” in early March.

Like other countries, Macron’s government had been counting on vaccines to help bring the outbreak under control, but the rollout across the region has been plagued by delays. And despite an acceleration over the past few weeks, the inoculations have so far had a marginal impact, with most EU states experiencing a third wave.

By April 14, France had administered a total of 15.75 million vaccine doses, of which 11.6 million were first doses, according to data disclosed by health authorities.

About 300 people are dying each day in French hospitals with COVID-19, and some 5,900 patients are hospitalized in intensive care units across the country.