France will enact a national 6pm to 6am curfew as of Saturday and strengthen border controls, as it tries to slow the spread of coronavirus infections in light of the new variant identified in Britain, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday (AEDT).
The move will bring forward an existing 8pm curfew by two hours, based on results achieved in a few areas where a 12-hour nightly lockdown has already been enacted.
France's COVID-19 death toll is edging towards 70,000, the seventh highest toll in the world.
Big chunks of the country, including most of its regions that border Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, already faced 6pm-to-6pm restrictions on movement.
An earlier curfew combats virus transmission “precisely because it serves to limit social interactions that people can have at the end of the day, for example in private homes,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said ahead of Castex's announcement.
The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has been stable at 24,000 to 25,500 for five weeks. But health officials are worried by the more-transmissible variant first detected in Britain, which now accounts for about 1 per cent of new cases in France.
From Monday all travellers coming to France from outside the European Union will have to show a negative COVID-19 test and self-isolate for a week upon arrival.
Overnight curfews have become the norm in swaths of Europe but the 6pm-to-6am restriction is the toughest anywhere in the European Union's 27 nations. Others countries' curfews all start later and often finish earlier.
In Italy, it runs from 10pm to 5am, as does the Friday night to Sunday morning curfew in Latvia. Regions of Belgium that speak French have a 10pm to 6am curfew while in Belgium's Dutch-speaking region, the hours are midnight to 5am.
People out between 8pm and 5am in Hungary must be able to show police written proof from their employers that they are either working or commuting.
There are no curfews in Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Sweden, Poland or the Netherlands, although the Dutch government is thinking about whether imposing one would slow new COVID-19 cases.