France extended its nationwide lockdown on Monday for another month in a bid to halt the coronavirus pandemic, as other hard-hit countries considered easing their measures with hopes rising that death rates may soon plateau.

More than half of humanity is now under confinement to contain the virus, which has killed at least 119,000 people and infected two million since emerging in China late last year. 

Most of the dead are from Europe, but the United States has also been hard hit -- particularly New York state where more than 10,000 have died, close to half of all fatalities in the country.

While New York's governor said the peak had passed on Monday, Spain started to ease lockdown orders and Austria readied to reopen some shops. 

France did not follow suit, instead extending a lockdown in place since March 17 until May 11, after which schools and businesses are set to gradually reopen. 

President Emmanuel Macron said the epidemic was "beginning to steady... (and) hope is returning," speaking in a televised address to the nation.
"May 11 will be the start of a new phase. It will be progressive and the rules can be adapted according to our results," he added. 

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France reported a slight increase in hospital deaths Monday, though still below its record numbers of last week and a slight dip in intensive care patients for a fifth day running. 

The World Health Organization said lifting curbs too soon could unleash a second wave of cases and warned that only a vaccine would fully halt the spread of COVID-19.

With inputs from agency