The curfew imposed in eight regions of France last week, including Paris and its suburbs, is extended from midnight Friday to 38 regions and Polynesia, Castex said. It has to last six weeks before an exam, he said.
“In France, like everywhere in Europe, the second wave is here,” Castex said at a press conference, adding that “no one is spared”.
The extension means that 46 million of the 67 million people living in France will be under curfew.
The virus spreads less quickly during the second wave but more widely, the prime minister said. The number of COVID-19 cases has doubled in France in the past 15 days.
“The situation is serious,” Castex said.
More than 34,000 people have died in France since the start of the pandemic, one of the highest death rates in Europe. The number of cases reported daily has hovered around 30,000.
The Prime Minister said the national hospital bed occupancy rate was now over 44% and four regions, including Paris, had more than half of their intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID patients -19, including the Paris region.
Several other government ministers joined Castex at the press conference as he prepared much of the country for home life and the need to wear masks outdoors.
France has used a targeted approach to tackle the virus, but some of the curfewed regions have yet to achieve alert-level infection rates. Castex said these areas are under a curfew for preventative reasons.
“The coming weeks will be difficult… and the death toll will increase,” he said.The French Minister of Health, Olivier Veran, described the speed of the spread of the virus as “alarming” even if it is slower than at the start of the pandemic. The map of areas subject to curfew shows that infections extend beyond large cities and into less populated and even rural areas.
The intensive care unit beds present a major challenge, he said, and planned operations are being delayed to free up beds. France has increased its ICU beds from 5,100 to 5,800 but can quickly increase to 7,700 beds to treat patients with COVID-19.