France on Friday extended its coronavirus lockdown for another two weeks as the Prime Minister warned of “difficult days” to come following a surge in cases that is beginning to put the French health system under pressure.

The extension came as France reported another 299 deaths from the virus, bringing its total toll to 1,995, with officials warning it was too early to expect any effect from the lockdown.

PM  Edouard Philippe said, “We find ourselves in a crisis that will last, in a health situation that will not improve any time soon”.

“The situation will be difficult in the days to come,” he added, as he announced the extension of the stay-at-home order by another two weeks to April 1

The French leader said that the initial two-week home confinement of all residents except for essential employees, will now last until at least April 15. It was to have ended next Tuesday.

“Obviously this period will be extended again if conditions require it,” Philippe further added.

The extension also applies to widespread business closures seen as necessary to brake the propagation of the virus.

Earlier on Thursday, Police Minister Christophe Castaner said, “French police have issued more than 225,000 fines for violations of the lockdown rules so far”.

The lockdown measures were generally well respected, but those in violation “will be severely punished as this concerns the health of all of us and, especially, the most fragile”, the prime minister said.

The latest toll of 299 new deaths, while severe, is lower than the 365 new deaths reported on Thursday.

Last week, the lockdown imposed in France to battle the coronavirus should last at least six weeks in total.

The council of doctors and sociologists was created by the health ministry to advise President Emmanuel Macron and the government on the best way to combat the coronavirus.

Other strategies like mass testing or isolating all those who may have the virus were not realisable on a national scale, experts further added.

As of now, 3,787 patients were in intensive care out of a total of 15,732 people hospitalised in France after becoming infected with the coronavirus, he said.

A surge in infections has caused a critical shortage of medical supplies in many places. The hunt for ventilators and other critical items is consuming Europe and the US.