Young people gathered Wednesday by the Seine River in Paris, largely without masks and without social distancing.
France will enter a third national lockdown for four weeks, French president Emmanuel Macron announced in an address to the nation on Wednesday night, expanding current measures in 19 territories to the whole country.
He warned the country would "lose control if we do not move now", introducing restrictions including closing non-essential shops, and shutting schools for three weeks after Easter. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online.
His handling of the twin health and economic crises caused by the pandemic will be foremost in voters' minds next April and May, analysts say.
But it has also suffered more than 550,000 fatalities - the world's highest toll - and coronavirus was the third leading cause of deaths in the U.S. a year ago.
President Macron's TV speech will be broadcast from 20:00, the Elysée has confirmed. They are on track to surpass even the first deadly wave oflast spring.
A calendar would be drawn up for a full reopening of sports, leisure, hospitality and cultural facilities soon, he added. "We can not remain silent without betraying our Hippocratic oath", they said.
The new lockdown will force the temporary closure of 150,000 businesses at a cost of 11 billion euros ($17 billion) per month, the finance ministry said. Britain, Germany and Italy are also in various forms of lockdown.
But, Macron added, "we will become the world's first continent in terms of vaccine production".
The US has already rolled out far more vaccine doses than any country, with nearly 150 million of the 600 million jabs worldwide administered worldwide. Only 4% have been fully vaccinated. "It is moving very fast", she said.
Sky's Europe correspondent Adam Parsons said of the president's address: "This really was a classic bit of Emmanuel Macron rhetoric".
With warm weather and sunshine on Wednesday, groups of young people could be seen congregating in public spaces around Paris, ignoring rules barring the consumption of alcohol outside.
Brazil meanwhile closed out a month in which it recorded a staggering 57,606 Covid deaths, with hospitals overwhelmed and doctors forced to make agonising decisions over whom to give life-saving care. Macron said there will be plenty of patrols and fines given.
What is the health situation in France? He said 44 per cent of patients now in intensive care are aged under 65.
The country's Scientific Council, which advises the government on measures to combat the virus, called for a strict lockdown in January.
This brings the whole country in line with cities like Paris, which have had a limited lockdown imposed for the past two weeks.
In his address, Macron explained that "new data coming through" means that the country must now take further action in response to the spread of the variant.
"We have a entered a race [between] on the one side the deployment of vaccination [and] on the other the spread in all of Europe of a new form of virus", he said, referring to the variant originating in the United Kingdom, which he called "an epidemic within the epidemic".
"Soon, almost 100,000 families will be in mourning", he said, referring to France's climbing coronavirus death rate.