French President Emmanuel Macron announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.
In a televised address on Wednesday, Mr Macron said that France must now “brutally apply the brakes” to avoid being “submerged by the acceleration of the epidemic”.
Mr Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” he said, adding that half of all intensive care beds at French hospitals were being occupied by Covid patients.
The president said that under the new rules, people would need to fill in a form to justify leaving their homes, as was required in the initial lockdown in March. Social gatherings are banned.
Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.
“Like in the spring, you will be able to leave your house only to work, for a medical appointment, to provide assistance to a relative, to shop for essential goods or to go for a walk near your house,” Mr Macron said.
But he made clear that the economy “must not stop or collapse”.
The new measure starts from Friday.
Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.