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The French government has decided to extend the nationwide lockdown by two weeks until April 15 to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced.

“After these first 10 days of confinement, it is clear that we are just at the beginning of this epidemic wave. It has submerged eastern France and now it is arriving in the Paris region and northern France,” Xinhua news agency quoted Philippe as saying on Friday.

“With the agreement of the President of the Republic, I’m announcing the extension of the confinement period by two weeks, starting from next Tuesday until April 15,” he added.

Under the lockdown, declared on March 17, people can only leave their homes to buy food and medicine, and all non-essential businesses have been closed.

Further strict restrictions on people’s movement were decided to fight against the rampant infection cases.

Open-air markets are shut down.

People would be allowed to go out for a walk with their children or to exercise once a day for no more than one hour and within one kilometer of their home.

Sanctions against those who break the rules are tougher.

“The same rules as those currently in force will continue to apply. This confinement period may be extended if the sanitary situation requires it,” Philippe said after a cabinet meeting.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in France has risen by 13 per cent within a day to reach a total of 32,964 as of Friday, the 11th day of national lockdown, Health General Director Jerome Salomon said.

A total of 1,995 people have died, an increase of 299 from Thursday, Salomon said, adding tha come 5,700 infected people were recovered, up from 4,948 reported the previous day.

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