PARIS • French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned that the country was seeing a "clear worsening" of the coronavirus pandemic, but said he would aim to avoid a new nationwide lockdown that would further hammer the economy.
Nearly 10,000 new cases were reported on Thursday, a record since wide-scale testing began, but Mr Castex said a recent increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations was particularly worrying.
"We have to succeed in living with this virus, without returning to the idea of a generalised lockdown," he said in a televised statement from his official residence in Paris on Friday.
"Our strategy is not changing. We must fight the virus without putting on hold our social, cultural and economic life, the education of our children and our ability to live normally," he added.
Mr Castex said 42 of France's 101 departments are now classified as "red zones" where the virus is circulating rapidly, up from 28 earlier last week.
"There is no Maginot Line - inevitably it ends up reaching the most vulnerable," he said, referring to the supposedly unbreakable defences France built ahead of World War II.
But he did not announce any major new restrictions, urging people instead to respect social distancing guidelines and the use of face masks.
And the quarantine period for people who catch the virus will be shortened to just seven days from 14, to better match "the period when there is a real risk of contagion", he said.
The move is a tacit acknowledgement that enforcing quarantine steps has proved nearly impossible given the number of new cases.
Mr Castex also said testing capacities would be ramped up in response to long waiting times for appointments and results.