Two more French cities have joined Paris and Marseille and four others in maximum alert status to fight back coronavirus, with strict new measures to stop the spread of infections.
The prefecture of Montpellier, in the south, has announced a maximum alert status for the city and surrounding towns starting Tuesday. Measures include the closing of cafes and bars.
The southwest city of Toulouse was doing likewise after a day of meetings between mayors of surrounding towns and the prefect, the local state authority, the Toulouse newspaper La Depeche reported on Sunday.
Soaring infections and increased hospitalisations put four other cities on the maximum alert list on Saturday: Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne in the southeast and Lille in the north.
National authorities reported on Saturday nearly 26,900 new daily infections in 24 hours.
The count dropped to 16,100 on Sunday but the rate of positive tests climbed to 11.5 per cent.
There were nearly 5100 new hospitalisations over the past week, with 910 people in ICUs.
As of Sunday, there were 32,730 COVID-19 deaths but the actual number is likely higher due to deaths at home and incomplete reporting from hospitals or rest homes.
While France girded itself for a climb in critical numbers, a consultation by the National Order of Nurses published on Sunday suggested a significant number of respondents feel tired and fed up, with 37 per cent saying the pandemic is making them want to change jobs.
Nearly 59,400 nurses responded to the October 2-7 internal survey on the impact of the health crisis on their working conditions, out of 350,000 in the Order of Nurses.
A spokesman for the order, Adrien de Casabianca, described the survey as a "consultation" without the classic methodology of a poll.
The numbers suggested French medical facilities may not be keeping pace with the growing need, despite lessons from the height of the virus crisis.
The National Order of Nurses notes 34,000 nurses' jobs in France are currently vacant.
Nurses and other health professionals in France and elsewhere have sporadically demonstrated for higher salaries, better working conditions and more personnel.
They were recently given small salary hikes.
"Today, nurses must deal with a growth in COVID-19 cases and feel unarmed to do so," the president of the National Order of Nurses, Patrick Chamboredon, said.
With nurses "indispensable" to the functioning of the health system, "we cannot accept that", he said.