French President Emmanuel Macron said the country will impose a four-week lockdown starting Friday. His announcement was made moments after German Chancellor Angela Merkel also declared a four-week nationwide lockout starting Monday.
The World Health Organization said Europe - which includes Russia, Turkey, Israel, and Central Asia - accounted for nearly 50% of the 2.8 million new virus infections reported around the world last week.
According to Macron, the virus is spreading at a speed "that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated," Reuters quoted the president as saying in a televised address. "Like all our neighbors, we're submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus."
Under the French lockdown, people will need to secure a certificate from the health authority to move around. Nonessential activities, businesses, restaurants, and nightclubs will be closed. Exercise for up to one hour a day will be allowed. Workplaces and schools will remain open, and visits to care homes will be allowed but for a limited time.
France's lockdown will last until Dec. 1 at a "minimum," Macron said. Germany's restrictions will be re-evaluated in two weeks' time, Merkel said.
Germany will help businesses impacted by the most rigid prohibitions since the end of the spring lockdown by releasing around 10 billion euros ($11.7 billion) in financial stimulus in November when the policies are all in place, a source with knowledge of the situation disclosed.
The United Nations health agency said virus-linked fatalities increased 35% in Europe since the previous week, as well as hospitalizations as a result of COVID. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the region is "deep in the second wave," adding that "this year's Christmas will be a different Christmas," MarketWatch reported.
France reported 34,591 new confirmed infections and 530 deaths Wednesday, based on data by Johns Hopkins University, bringing its total to 1,279,384 confirmed cases and 35,820 deaths.
Germany reported a record 14,964 new daily cases, according to its disease and control agency Robert Koch Institute. Germany's total COVID tally now stands at 449,275, with 10,098, death toll, data showed.