Paris on Friday said an existing nighttime curfew would start two hours earlier in much of the country.
In 15 of France’s 101 departments from Saturday, exit restrictions will start at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
Most of the affected areas are in the east of the country. They include the Les Alpes-Maritimes department, where the Mediterranean city of Nice is situated. The capital, Paris, will not be affected.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told TF1 television that the earlier curfew could be extended to other departments if the situation deteriorated. He did not rule out another lockdown, of which France has already seen two nationwide.
The tightened curfew comes as France’s tally of overall coronavirus cases stands at 2,620,425 — the highest in western Europe and the fifth-highest in the world. The death toll is 64,632.
The move comes as mayors in the various regions report that their local health infrastructure is being overwhelmed as new cases continue to be detected.
Slow off the mark with vaccination
Attal also defended the pace of France’s vaccine rollout. According to TF1, France has seen just 332 people receive the jab since the campaign began last weekend. That compares with more than 130,000 in neighboring Germany.
“We are not going to judge a vaccination campaign that will last six months in just a few days,” he said, pointing out that French authorities were currently concentrating on care homes for the elderly, where the process was more time-consuming.
Despite the curfew rules, some 2,500 people attended a New Year rave in Lieuron in the Brittany region. Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the illegal organization of a musical event and the violence directed at police who tried to stop the celebration, the Ille-et-Vilaine prefecture said in a statement.
France reported 19,927 new cases of coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Thursday, far above the government’s target of fewer than 5,000 daily infections.