France is extending by two weeks until at least the 15 April its stay-at-home order for all people to curtail the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, said on Friday.

President Emmanuel Macron had ordered people in France to stay at home from 17 March for two weeks for all but essential tasks. But the scale of the epidemic in the country had made it inevitable that the lockdown would be extended.

"In agreement with the president, today I'm announcing the renewal of the confinement period for two more weeks," Philippe said at the Elysee presidential palace.

"Obviously this period will be extended again if conditions require it," he added. The additional two weeks from 1 April means it would now expire on 15 April.

The Prime Minister has warned that France are just at the beginning "of this wave of epidemic" 

Philippe said that lockdown measures were well respected in general, but the few who violate them "will be severely punished as this concerns the health of all of us and, especially, the most fragile."

He also warned that "after the first ten days of confinement it is clear that we are still just at the start of this wave of epidemic."

French authorities said on Thursday that 365 people had been killed by Covid-19 over the previous 24 hours,

France's highest daily toll, taking the national total of those who have died in hospital to 1,696.