Restaurants, some shops, cinemas and cafés will shut for the foreseeable future in Édouard Philippe’s nation.
The Prime Minister, 49, has also ordered people to work from home and only go out to buy supplies, take light exercise and vote in the election, which unlike in the UK, remains scheduled.
Public transport will remain open but Mr Philippe encouraged his citizens to limit their use.
He labelled coronavirus France’s “biggest health crisis in a century”. More than 90 people have died of the virus there so far and a further 4,500 are infected.
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Speaking at a press conference tonight, Mr Philippe said: “I have decided to close all non-indispensable locations.
“We must absolutely limit our movements.”
“I am conscious of the efforts and sacrifices that we are asking, but I have faith that the French people will have the capacity to overcome this serious moment.”
Exceptions on France’s ban include supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations.
However, entertainment complexes will be forced to close in the third largest country in Europe.
Jerome Salomon, the head of the French public health authority, said there had been a rapid increase in serious cases, including 300 people in intensive care, half of whom were below 60 years of age.
The development comes after Italy also shut all shops on Wednesday.
Company departments which are not essential for production will no longer operate in Italy, Europe’s worst-affected country, for the foreseeable future.
Many airlines, including British Airways, still won’t fly to Italy from the UK as a result.
Giuseppe Conte, the nation’s Prime Minister, said: “The right decision today is to stay at home.
“Our future and the future of Italy is in our hands. These hands have to be more responsible today than ever before.”
Italy’s 60 million people will now only be able to travel for work, medical reasons or emergencies.