Germany will go into national lockdown from the start of next week in an effort to curb rocketing COVID-19 infections, while France will introduce similar measures next Friday.
Anger has been mounting in cities throughout Europe over new restrictions. Protesters across Italy clashed with police this week as a curfew for bars and restaurants took effect.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the new lockdown measures during a televised address on Wednesday afternoon local time, saying the Federal Government had come to an agreement with states to lock down the entire country from November 2 – for at least two weeks.
Shops, schools and kindergartens will remain open but private meetings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households, and all bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, pools and gyms are to be closed.
German citizens will be asked to avoid all non-essential travel and hotels will only be open for essential non-tourism purposes.
"We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency," Ms Merkel said.
"Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks."
Ms Merkel added that health authorities were no longer able to trace the origin of around 75 per cent of infections, which made it difficult to say which measures exactly would have the biggest impact.
"We have to reduce contacts somewhere. If we wait longer, we will have to reduce contacts even more," she said.
A 10 billion euro ($16.64 billion) aid package will pay companies that have to close a share of their lost sales during the shutdown.
Smaller companies, with up to 50 employees, will receive 75 per cent of the year-earlier revenues for the month of November.
Germany was widely praised for keeping infection and death rates below those of many of its neighbours in the first phase of the crisis but is now in the midst of a second wave.
Cases rose by 14,964 to 464,239 in the last 24 hours, Germany's infectious diseases agency, the Robert Koch Institute said, while deaths jumped by 85 to a total of 10,183.
The Chancellor and state leaders will reconvene two weeks into the partial lockdown to assess how effective the measures are.
The announcement came on the same day hospitality and entertainment industry staff took to the streets of German capital Berlin to voice their opposition to the partial lockdown which is currently in place.
Thousands of protesters marched through the city centre and passed the Federal Chancellery.
France lockdown restricts people leaving home
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a nationwide lockdown as cases in the country surge.
It is the second lockdown enforced in France since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
On Wednesday, France recorded 36,437 new cases of COVID-19 and 244 deaths.
The new measures mean people must stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or use their daily one-hour allocation of exercise.
Bars and restaurants will also close when the lockdown begins on Friday.
People will still be allowed to go to work if their employer deems it impossible for them to do their job from home.
However, unlike the last lockdown which ended in May, most schools will remain open.
During his address on French television, Mr Macron said the new wave of cases was worse than forecast.
"The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated," he said.
"Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus.
"We are all in the same position — overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first."
Mr Macron said the measures would be in place until at least December 1.
Protesters have clashed with police over tightening restrictions in several cities across Europe including Berlin, Prague and Rome.
Protests broke out across Italy after a national Government order took effect requiring bars, cafes and restaurants to close their doors at 6:00pm for the next 30 days.
A protest in the Sicilian capital Palermo by business owners against new restrictions turned violent late Wednesday after being infiltrated by anarchists.
In the northern city of Turin, some demonstrators broke off from a peaceful protest, smashing store windows, setting off smoke bombs and hurling bottles at police in a main city square.
Italy's Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, claimed a number of fringe groups were using the crisis as an excuse for violence.
Milan's mayor, Giuseppe Sala, spoke out Wednesday against a lockdown in the Lombardy capital, the epicentre of Italy's new virus resurgence.
Ursula von der Leyen, the EU chief, acknowledged the growing toll the continued crisis is taking.
“This time we have two enemies,” she said. “The coronavirus itself, and corona fatigue, that is, the growing weariness when it comes to the precautionary measures,” she said.
In Prague, demonstrators in horror masks marched against virus restrictions on Wednesday even though the Czech Republic holds the grim European record of almost 1,450 cases per 100,000 people in the past fortnight, closely followed by Belgium, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
The Czech Health Ministry said the country’s daily increase in new infections hit a record high of 15,663 on Tuesday — more than was reported Wednesday in Germany, which has eight times the population.