Several French regions badly hit by the Covid-19 epidemic, including the Ile-de-France region around Paris, will start a new four-week lockdown from Friday, but schools will stay open and confinement will be less strict than in previous nationwide lockdowns, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday.
He also announced that the nationwide curfew will be moved back by an hour to start at 7pm.
Mr Caste said essential goods outlets, including bookshops, will remain open and outdoor activities will be allowed in a 10km radius, but inter-regional travel will not be allowed.
France recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases in nearly four months on Wednesday, the biggest daily jump since France's second lockdown in November.
"We have a very strong acceleration at the moment," President Emmanuel Macron said on a visit to a hospital in Paris.
"As we've done from the start, we will continue to take decisions and these will be pragmatic, proportional, regional, but correspond to the evolution of the epidemic. We will take the decisions we have to take."
France has a 6pm-6am curfew and is closed to most international traffic except from EU countries. Some areas are under additional weekend lockdown restrictions. Schools are open but ski resorts, theatres and restaurants are shut.
The Health Ministry reported 38,501 new infections on Wednesday, raising the country's total to 4.15 million. The seven-day average of new cases rose to more than 26,000 a day.
The Paris region is particularly hard hit. More than a quarter of the country’s Covid-19 patients in intensive care are in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris.
France is trying to step up its vaccination campaign, but suspended the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine pending a ruling on Thursday by the European Medicines Agency on its safety and possible side effects.
More than 5.5 million of France's 67 million population have had at least one vaccination and nearly 2.4 million have received both doses, official data show.
Health officials said on Tuesday that a new coronavirus variant sweeping through north-west France could evade detection in standard tests.
The strain, first spotted in Brittany, “doesn’t suggest either increased severity or increased transmissibility” but there are indications its presence in patients is harder to confirm.
Brittany’s health workers are trying to establish the extent of the variant’s circulation.