President Emmanuel Macron has ordered all of France into its third national lockdown as a coronavirus variant rampages through the European country.
Despite efforts to avoid another lockdown, schools will close for three weeks as the French government tried to push back a third Covid-19 wave that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
The so-called UK variant is driving the latest wave in France just as it did in Britain after Christmas when cases surged.
It is now the dominant variant in the country and is said to be responsible for nearly 80 percent of new Covid cases, according to official government data.
While Australia's latest Brisbane cluster is linked to the more infectious UK variant, Australia has avoided widespread community transmission of the strain.
With a death toll nearing 100,000, intensive care wards at breaking point and a slower-than-planned vaccine rollout, Mr Macron overnight was forced to abandon his goal of keeping the country open to protect the economy.
"We will lose control if we do not move now," the president said in a televised address on Wednesday (local time).
His announcement means movement restrictions already in place for more than a week in Paris and some northern and southern regions, will apply to the whole country for at least a month from Saturday.
France forced into 'last resort' of closing schools
During the second lockdown, the French government kept schools open but increased spread among the young has now forced them to close schools.
“Closing schools remains a last resort,” government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told French radio last week.
“We know the educational, social cost, and the negative impact closing schools can have on some children.”
With case numbers and hospitalisations heading north, a strict lockdown preventing people from travelling more than 10kms from their home without a valid reason is set to come into effect.
It comes as daily infections in France have doubled since February to average nearly 40,000 each day.
Despite being at pains to keep education facilities open, school learning will be done remotely for a week, after which schools go on a two-week holiday, which for most of the country will be earlier than scheduled.
Thereafter, young primary school students will return while middle and high school students will continue distance learning for an extra week.
"It is the best solution to slow down the virus," Macron said.
Only 12 per cent of French population vaccinated
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care in France has breached 5000, exceeding the peak hit during a six-week-long lockdown late last year.
The new lockdown will force the temporary closure of 150,000 businesses at a cost of 11 billion euros ($A17 billion) per month.
The setback for the euro zone's second-largest economy, may also dampen Europe's hopes of bouncing back swiftly from the pandemic, the way the US and Chinese economies are.
Macron says France's vaccine campaign needs to be accelerated.
Mired early in red tape and slowed by supply shortages, it is only now finding its stride three months in, with just 12 per cent of the population inoculated.
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