The virus is spreading rapidly in France, Prof Jérôme Salomon, director of the French health authority, has said.
There are 9,134 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in France, and there have been 264 deaths – an increase of 89 in the last 24 hours. Of those infected, 2,626 are in hospital; 931 of them in intensive care, half of whom are under 60 years old.
“There are still lots of people in the streets with masks and we can understand their worry … but it is completely useless for those in the the streets. Only health workers and their patients need to wear masks. There is not sense in others wearing masks.”
“Everyone who has masks for different reasons, if you have a stock of masks that you are not using please given them to health clinics, hospitals or even your local pharmacy who will pass them on to health workers.”
Salomon thanked the Chinese authorities who had given France one million masks.
France has carried out 4,000 tests today (42,000 since the beginning of the epidemic).
The fine for ignoring the order to stay at home was raised to €135 on Wednesday and those fined were told it would rise to €375 if not paid within seven days.
In and around Paris, the police and gendarmes reported they had stopped 10,000 people and verified if they had the necessary documents allowing them to be out.
The French health minister, Olivier Véran, said most people come into contact with around 50 people per day in normal circumstances. He called on everyone to reduce this to five people.
The prime minister, Edouard Philippe, said the government was to introduce a “health state of emergency”. The legal move would allow the government to “adapt our legal rules in a very temporary manner to take into account the particular situation caused by the epidemic”, Philippe said.