Some 20 million French people spent their first evening under curfew on Saturday as the health ministry reported more than 32,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, the highest single-day tally since the start of the pandemic.
The 9pm to 6am curfew came into force in the Paris region and eight other large cities, affecting nearly a third of the country's population.
People will need a certificate for permitted activities, such as travel to or from work, for medical attention, to visit a dependent relative or to walk a dog.
Those who do not comply risk a fine of €135 ($160), while repeat offenders could face fines of up to €3,750 ($4,400).
Some 12,000 police officers and gendarmes, in addition to municipal police teams, will be deployed to enforce the curfew.
The French government says the curfew is necessary to stem the surge in new coronavirus cases, which passed the 150,000-mark across Europe on Friday.
The French health ministry reported a record number of new confirmed cases on Saturday at 32,427, a day after reporting 25,086.
The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 867,197 while the total number of deaths stands at 33,392, up by 90 from Friday.
No travel restrictions
Restaurant owners, for whom the second part of the evening represents an important part of turnover, have complained about the curfew.
"Closing at 9pm will have no effect (on the epidemic). They're not attacking it in the right way," said Gerard, the manager of a Toulouse restaurant.
But the government says a curfew is the only way to avoid another crippling lockdown, which would inflict greater damage on the economy.
The curfew measure, which comes just ahead of a two-week school holiday, contains no travel restrictions, raising the prospect that huge numbers of families will flee cities for the country.
Scheduled to last at least four weeks, the curfew could be extended if the epidemic does not show signs of abating. President Emmanuel Macron has already mentioned the date of December 1.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)