PARIS — France has extended lockdown measures until April 15, a move announced by Prime Minister Eduard Philippe Friday evening, as the number of cases of the coronavirus swelled in the capital, overwhelming hospitals in the region.

“We have said to the French people several times that confinement will last as long as necessary to break the wave of the epidemic and allow our hospitals to handle the influx of severe cases caused by COVID-19 as well as possible,” he said, speaking in a live-streamed speech.

“It is clear we are only at the beginning of the epidemic wave,” added the Prime Minister, noting it first hit the eastern part of the country and is now heavily affecting the capital region.

The period could be extended again, if the crisis continues, he added. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government is following recommendations from a scientific council that has advised at least six weeks of confinement in total. 

Schools have been closed since March 16, and shops across the country have been closed since March 17, following orders to curb nonessential activities, the start of the country’s lockdown. France has had nearly 30,000 cases of COVID-19, according to a tally on the Johns Hopkins University web site.

The country has restricted movement, allowing people to leave their houses only once a day, for an hour maximum of exercise, to shop for groceries or for medical reasons.