France recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections since March, as President Emmanuel Macron raised the possibility of another nationwide lockdown.
Another 7,379 cases were confirmed as of Friday, bringing the country’s total to 267,077.
It was the largest daily peak since March 31, when 7,578 cases were recorded at the peak of the first wave.
France is experiencing an “exponential” increase in cases, the health ministry said.
The ministry said Friday’s hike followed daily increases of 6,111 on Thursday and 5,429 on Wednesday.
Despite the sharp increase, the number of hospitals and daily deaths have remained relatively stable, with young people less vulnerable to the disease making up most of the new infections, the ministry said.
20 more people were confirmed to have died with Covid-19 on Friday, bringing the total death toll in France to 30,596.
Shortly before the figures were released on Friday, Mr Macron said a second nationwide lockdown could not be ruled out if the infections got out of hand.
However, he said his government was trying to avoid the return of restrictions that would delay the country’s fragile economic recovery.
“Containment is the crudest of measures to fight a virus,” Macron said, urging people to be “collectively very rigorous”.
France began to ease its eight-week lockdown in May. But parts of the country – including the capital Paris – remained under tighter controls.
Local authorities have been given the power to enforce lockdown measures, such as closing bars and restaurants, in areas where cases are increasing.
On Friday, masks were made mandatory outside in Paris to fight the rise in infections.
How are other European countries doing?
Spain and Germany have also recorded their highest number of daily cases since spring in recent days, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a resurgence of the disease in Europe.
On Thursday, Hans Kluge, director-general of the WHO’s European office, said young people should not be content with the virus.
“The younger ones may not necessarily die from it, but it’s a tornado with a long tail. It’s a multi-organ disease, so the virus really attacks the lungs, but also the heart and other organs, ”he said.
As winter approaches, young people would also be in closer contact with older people, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Friday that in the coming months things would become “even more difficult than now” as people were able to enjoy the outdoor life during the summer.
A protest against Germany’s coronavirus restrictions was due to take place in Berlin on Saturday, despite a steady rise in cases above 1,000 a day recently.
Spain, among the first European countries to experience a second peak in infections, diagnosed 3,829 new cases on Friday. Ahead of the new school year, the government said schoolchildren aged six and over must wear masks in class.
Hungary announced on Friday that it would close its borders to foreigners from September 1 to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The country recorded 132 new infections on Friday, the highest daily number since the peak of the pandemic.
Turkey reported its highest number of deaths in 24 hours since May 17 on Friday. Another 36 people have died, bringing the country’s death toll to 6,245. Meanwhile, the number of new daily cases has once again exceeded 1,500, prompting the government to impose restrictions.