Health authorities in several European countries have expanded the mandatory use of face coverings while the number of new coronavirus infections continues to surge in South Korea and India.
Most of Germany will impose a minimum fine of 50 euros ($A81) for breaching mask-wearing rules as COVID-19 cases rise again, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday after a virtual meeting with the country's state governors.
Officials also agreed to extend a ban on big events where social distancing and contact tracing can't be ensured until the end of December.
In decentralised Germany, imposing and loosening virus-related restrictions is a matter for the 16 state governments so a patchwork of rules has emerged in recent months.
Some areas have imposed no punishment for people who don't wear masks as required in public transport, shops and elsewhere while others have imposed high fines.
But Merkel said on Thursday all except the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt had agreed on the minimum fine.
French police have announced face masks will be obligatory across Paris and its inner suburbs with effect from 8am on Friday.
The move came hours after Prime Minister Jean Castex said he thought it was "urgent" to make masks obligatory across the capital, and not just in some areas as has been the case since August 10.
The new requirement will also apply to cyclists, motorcyclists and users of scooters and e-scooters, who were previously exempt.
The Spanish government said on Thursday that schoolchildren aged six and over must wear masks to class.
With Spain registering the highest prevalence of the coronavirus in western Europe and diagnosing thousands of new cases every day, there had been speculation the new academic year might be postponed in the worst-affected areas.
But health minister Salvador Illa said that, while closing down schools could be necessary if multiple cases of the virus were detected across different classrooms, that would be the last resort.
"It would have to be studied on a case by case basis. This is not black and white," he said at a joint news conference with the ministers for education and regional policy.
Meanwhile, South Korea reported 441 new cases on Thursday - its highest single-day total in months - making lockdown-like restrictions appear inevitable as transmissions slip out of control.
The country has reported triple-digit daily jumps on each of the past 14 days, prompting health experts to warn that hospitals could run out of capacity.
Thursday's increase was the biggest since 483 cases were reported on March 7.
South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 315 of the new cases were from the Seoul area, home to half of the country's 51 million people, where health workers have struggled to track infections linked to churches, restaurants, schools and workers.
The National Assembly in Seoul was shut down and more than a dozen ruling party MPs were forced to isolate on Thursday following a positive test of a journalist who covered a ruling party leaders' meeting.
Infections were also reported in major cities and provincial towns around the country.
Health officials have described the outbreak over the past two weeks as the country's biggest crisis since the emergence of COVID-19.
India recorded its highest single-day increase with 75,760 new virus cases as it ramps up testing, raising the country's total virus tally to more than 3.3 million.
The health ministry on Thursday also reported 1023 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 60,472.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks.
With more than 800,000 average tests every day, India has scaled up testing per million to more than 27,000, the ministry said.
Chinese authorities reported no new local transmissions for an 11th straight day as containment efforts wrapped up for the country's most recent major outbreaks.
Eight new imported cases were reported on Thursday while 324 people remained in treatment.
China has reported 4634 deaths from COVID-19 among 85,004 cases.
The far northwestern city of Urumqi that recorded more than 300 cases in China's latest major outbreak has relaxed quarantine restrictions on communities that were closed off to contain the spread.
More than 24.28 million people have been reported to be infected by COVID-19 globally and 825,861 have died