The curfews will take effect from Saturday, and will run daily from 9pm (1900 GMT) until 6am the following morning, President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview broadcast on national television.
“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” Macron said about the shutdown, which will be in force for at least four weeks and up to six.
Alongside Paris, major cities like Lyon, Mediterranean port Marseille and southwestern Toulouse will also impose curfews, meaning that around 20 million people will be affected out of a total population of some 67 million.
Anyone violating a curfew would be fined €135 ($158.61) in the first instance and €1,500 ($1762.05) in the second instance.
Forget about night-time visits
Macron said that while the curfew lasts, people would have to forget about night-time visits to restaurants or to friends’ apartments and houses. Essential trips during curfew would still be allowed.
France’s upcoming Covid-19 curfew a concern for restaurants, theatres and cinemas
He said there would be no restrictions on public transport, and people would still be able to travel between French regions without restrictions.
France’s government had already put Paris, seven other cities and the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe under maximum virus alert, closing bars, banning student parties and capping the size of gatherings.
As of Wednesday morning, 1,539 people were in intensive care across France, which has a total capacity of some 5,000 beds. France reported about 180 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 people during the past week, and higher concentrations in some cities.
France has 798,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 33,000 deaths.