French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday that 20 French regions or departments, including Paris and surrounding areas, will be under "reinforced surveillance" for COVID-19 and could be placed under weekend lockdowns beginning March 6 if infection rates do not improve.
In a televised news conference along with Health Minister Olivier Veran, Castex said "the health situation in our country has deteriorated," but he said a nationwide lockdown is still not being considered.
Castex said the "virus is gaining ground," citing more than 30,000 new cases reported Wednesday after several months of between 15,000 and 20,000 cases per day. He also said hospital were approaching a critical point.
France's infection rate is about 250 cases per 100,000 people.
The prime minister said he asked the leaders of the 20 regions to consult with elected officials in their respective areas and encourage all residents to be extremely vigilant.
Castex said officials will take stock next week, and if the situation continues to deteriorate, they will impose measures similar to those put in place in Nice and Dunkirk, where weekend lockdowns have been imposed and only essential travel is allowed.