France reported 471 more deaths in hospital from Covid-19, bringing the country's official toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 4,503.

The French figures include only those who died in hospital and not those who died at home or in old people's homes. 

However top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters for the first time that an initial count had shown 884 people had died in old people's homes since the epidemic began.

If combined with the hospital toll, this would mean at least 5,387 people have died from Covid-19 in France since the outbreak began.

The daily death toll from hospitals was slightly down from the 509 deaths reported yesterday.

Some 26,000 people are hospitalised in France with 6,399 in intensive care, 382 more than the day earlier but an increase that has also slowed over this week.

France has been in lockdown since 17 March in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic, with only essential trips allowed outside that have to be justified with a signed piece of paper.

Asked to comment on the slightly less grim data and also reports from some regional hospitals that they were under less pressure, Mr Salomon said it was too early to say if the confinement was having an effect.

"I would be very careful, there is an incubation phase of a week and delay in severe cases appearing," he said.

"The evaluation of the impact of the confinement can take place at the end of the week or over the weekend. We should start to have an impact on admissions to hospital and intensive care in particular."

"When we have the good news from the ground so much the better. But let's be careful," he said.