Police checks will increase to ensure people wear face masks and respect social distancing, a government spokesperson said on Wednesday after new Covid-19 infections in the country nearly doubled in a day.
Gabriel Attal said: “We’re at a tipping point ... We’re going to mobilise polices forces to make checks.
“But it’s not the police people should be afraid of ... they should fear the virus, that lurks and contaminates.”
The French health ministry reported 1,397 new coronavirus infections over 24 hours on Tuesday, almost twice Monday’s tally.
There were also 15 new deaths in hospital, compared with an increase of 16 over the three days between Monday and Saturday.
President Emmanuel Macron interrupted his holiday to convene a special security meeting on Tuesday to discuss virus measures.
It was decided that new restrictions would be imposed in the 20 largest cities to curb the surge in infections and that a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be extended until the end of October.
The government is in talks with employers and unions about making mask-wearing in workplaces as widespread as possible.
Paris on Monday joined Toulouse, Lille, Biarritz and others in imposing a mandatory mask order in crowded outdoor zones. They are already compulsory nationwide in shops and banks.
This year’s Paris Marathon was also cancelled, organisers said on Wednesday.
Jean Castex, France’s prime minister, said the situation had been “evolving in the wrong direction” for two weeks, adding that tougher action was essential to avoid a return to “major new confinement”.
During a visit to a hospital intensive care ward in southern France, he said: “If we don’t act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control.”
France has reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases in the past week.
There have been more than 236,000 infections in the country and over 30,300 coronavirus-related deaths, the seventh highest in the world.
Additional reporting by agencies