France was preparing Thursday for tighter coronavirus restrictions in several major cities, two days after a maximum alert protocol went into force in Paris. On Wednesday, daily coronavirus infections hit a record 18,746 while the rate of positive test results rose to 9.1 percent from around 4.5 percent a month ago.
"The virus has been spreading faster in recent weeks," President Emmanuel Macron said late Wednesday.
"In places where it is spreading too fast, especially where it is spreading among the elderly who are most at risk, and where there are more and more intensive care beds being occupied, we must proceed to more restrictions," he said on French TV.
He said new measures would be similar to protocols put in place in and around the capital, as well as the region around Marseille in the south.
"We are not in a normal situation, and we won't be for several months," Macron said.
In Paris, bars and cafes were shuttered on Tuesday for two weeks to brake the spread of the virus, just over a week after new restrictions were imposed on Marseille and the overseas department of Guadeloupe.
Health Minister Olivier Veran is scheduled to hold a news briefing on the virus situation later Thursday.
Last week, Veran singled out five large cities, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse, as possibly requiring more restrictions, saying their health situations were "very worrying".
Massive clandestine parties
In Saint-Etienne, authorities have started an investigation into an unauthorised party, staged by some 150 students in a 60m2 appartment.
According to the website of France Bleu, "fifteen people were invited, they were requested to wear face masks, there were provisions for social distancing, there was disinfectant gel. The host even remained sober to see that everything would be all right."
But quickly things went out of hand after news about the party spread over social media and dozens of others decided to crash, putting themselves in the staircase, causing noise, and eventually the police had to intervene.
"A real catastrophe in terms of hygiene," according to the public prosecutor. Other media have also reported on massive clandestine parties where anti-Covid-19 measures are not respected.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus patients in hospital care rose to 7,514 across France on Wednesday from 7,377 a day earlier, with 1,406 in intensive care, of some 5,000 units nationwide.
The same day, authorities reported 80 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, taking the total number in France to 32,445.