By Elizabeth Pineau and Sudip Kar-Gupta
PARIS (Reuters) - Face masks must be worn everywhere in the French capital Paris from Friday morning in order to curb a surge in coronavirus infections, police said on Thursday.
The measure applies to all pedestrians as well as cyclists in Paris and its suburbs in an area that includes three neighbouring departments that form the Petite Couronn inner ring around Paris, a densely populated area with a total population of nearly seven million people.
Motorists will not have to wear a mask inside their car.
"The deterioration of the health situation...has led the prefect to take this strong measure in the interest of the population," the Paris police prefecture said in a statement.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government would order the mandatory wearing of masks across Paris but he did not give a deadline or specify the area.
"The virus is spreading all over the country... The spread of the epidemic could become exponential if we do not react quickly," he said.
The reproduction "R" number of infections in France has risen to 1.4, Castex said, meaning that every 10 people with the virus will infect another 14. An R number above 1 can lead to exponential growth.
France made it compulsory to wear a mask in closed public spaces such as shops and banks on July 21, and in early August it became compulsory outdoors in crowded parts of the city.
Castex, who oversaw France's emergence from lockdown before his appointment as premier in July, has said life must go on but that France will not let down its guard as scientific advisers warn of a second wave hitting in the autumn.
France reported 5,429 new daily infections on Wednesday, a new post-lockdown high and a level not seen since the height of the epidemic in early April.
Infections were rocketing among young people, Castex said, as he urged grandparents not to pick up their grandchildren from school when the academic year begins on Sept. 1.
The total number of people infected with the virus in France now stands at 253,587. A total of 30,544 deaths have been recorded.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Matthieu Protard, Myriam Rivet and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Angus MacSwan)