France's prime minister said Tuesday he wanted more masks worn in public places to prevent "a high risk of epidemic resumption" as health authorities warned coronavirus circulation was picking up again.
Visiting the southern city of Montpellier, Jean Castex said the country must act collectively, and "vigorously" to beat back a pandemic that has already claimed more than 30,300 lives in France.
To this end, he will ask local authorities "to extend as far as possible the obligation to wear masks in public spaces."
Local authorities have been given the legal authority to impose mask-wearing on citizens.
Masks are already obligatory nationwide on public transport and in enclosed spaces such as shops, banks and government offices.
Some cities and towns have also made them compulsory in certain outdoor spaces, such as along the banks of the Seine River in Paris and around its main tourist hotspots.
Castex said that unless French people acted individually and collectively, "we expose ourselves to a high risk of epidemic resumption that will be difficult to control.
"It will once again put pressure on… hospital services, it will also place pressure on our economy, our education system, our collective and cultural life," he said after taking part in a meeting of President Emmanuel Macron's defence council of senior ministers to discuss the virus.
He also announced that a ban on public gatherings of more than 5,000 people, such as sporting events or concerts, will now run until October 30 and not be lifted at the end of this month as originally planned.
Over the weekend, some 10,000 people flouted the ban to gather for an illegal rave party on a remote mountain plateau in France's least populated department, the Lozere, sparking anger from locals so far spared the worst of the outbreak.
France's health ministry said Monday that 10,800 new coronavirus cases had been identified in the past week, and warned that "circulation of the virus is intensifying, notably among young people and in certain regions such as the metropolitan areas of Paris and Marseille."
It said mask wearing was "a gesture of common sense" in crowded places and when a safe physical distance between people cannot be observed.
"Adolescents and young adults, less at risk of developing serious forms of the disease, can contribute to spreading it and infecting their loved ones — parents, grandparents and other vulnerable people for whom the consequences could be serious," the ministry said.