France will extend an overnight curfew to dozens more areas in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced.
“The second wave is now under way,” he said, shortly before the country announced a record 41,622 new cases.
The 21:00 to 06:00 curfew will come into force at midnight on Friday, and some 46 million people will now be affected by the measure.
Countries around Europe are struggling with rising infection rates.
France, Italy, Spain and the UK are all hotspots.
“The coming weeks will be hard and the number of deaths will continue to rise,” Mr Castex told a press conference on Thursday. Over the last 24 hours France recorded 162 more deaths.
“If we fail to stop the pandemic, we will be facing a dire situation and we will have to mull much tougher measures,” he added.
“We still have time to avoid that but we don’t have much time,” he said.
The prime minister’s announcement came less than a week after the same curfew was applied to the Paris region and eight other cities, including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse.
The restrictions will be extended to 38 more administrative departments as well as the overseas territory of Polynesia, and will remain in place for six weeks.
The overnight curfew has drawn complaints from restaurant owners, whose businesses are already suffering after the two-month lockdown in the spring.
But President Emmanuel Macron has said they are necessary to avoid the risk of hospitals being overrun.
France has reported more than 20,000 new cases over the past six days, and the total number of confirmed infections now stands at nearly one million.