France has become only the third nation in western Europe to pass the milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.
“We will not forget any face, any name,” said France”s president, Emmanuel Macron.
“Since the start of the pandemic, 100,000 French women and men have succumbed to the virus. We all have a thought for their families, their loved ones, for the children who have lost a parent or a grandparent, the bereaved siblings, the broken friendships.”
Italy and the United Kingdom are the only other countries in western Europe to have notched up a six-figure death toll.
But other European countries, including Portugal and Belgium, have higher coronavirus death rates relative to population.
The vast majority of France’s 100,000 deaths occurred during the second and third waves of the pandemic after October last year, fueled by the surge of a more contagious variant first found in Britain.
According to experts, even the 100,000 mark is an underestimate by thousands.
An analysis of death certificates shows that some coronavirus cases were not reported or patients were not tested when people died at home, in psychiatric units or in chronic-care facilities.
The unwanted milestone comes with the country on partial lockdown and trying to speed up a sluggish vaccine rollout.
Measures include closing schools, a domestic travel ban and shutting most non-essential shops.
An overnight nationwide curfew has been in place since mid-December, while all restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and museums have been closed since October.
France suspended on Wednesday all flights to and from Brazil amid fears over the new virus strain known as P1 that has emerged there.
Schools are set to gradually reopen starting April 26. The government is anticipating that other restrictions will start being lifted around mid-May.
Macron was meeting Thursday with officials to prepare the country’s gradual reopening. Authorities expect that 20 million people, about 38% of France’s adult population, will have received at least one vaccine dose by that time, up from 11.95 million now.
As of mid-April, only 16.7% of France’s total population had received a first dose, compared to 47.6% in the UK and 37% in the United States.
France has reported the most confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, more than 5.2 million.
The total number of coronavirus patients in intensive care in France neared 6,000 this week, the highest level since April last year.
Macron told Le Parisien newspaper he thought about all of the people who died in the pandemic and their families.
The pandemic was “so cruel” to individuals who sometimes were not able to accompany, during the last moments and in death, a father, a mother, a loved one, a friend,” Macron said.
Yet the crisis also shows “the ability of the French people to unite,” he said.
“There will be a tribute for sure, a national mourning for the victims of COVID-19,” French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said Wednesday.
“That time will come… today, we throw all our forces in the battle against the epidemic.”