Angela Merkel has plunged Germany back into 'lockdown lite', ordering all bars and restaurants to close across the country starting on Monday.
The move will also see theatres, cinemas and leisure facilities close throughout November, though unlike the first lockdown, schools and shops will be allowed to stay open. Takeaway services are also allowed.
Merkel, who announced the move Wednesday evening after agreeing it with regional governors, said it was necessary 'to act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency'.
President Emmanuel Macron was set to announce harsher restrictions in France on Wednesday evening, effectively plunging the nation back into full lockdown throughout November - though schools will stay open.
European markets tanked at the news, with the DAX falling almost 4.5 per cent. Britain's FTSE 100, France's CAC 40 and Italy's FTSE MIB were also sharply down on Wednesday.
Protesters also took to the streets of Berlin to demand that the government do more to support them, while anti-lockdown activists also took to the streets of Spain and Italy overnight, sparking clashes with police.
Protesters took to the streets of Berlin on Wednesday to demand more support for the government, even as Angela Merkel plunged the whole country back into a 'lockdown lite'
Members of Berlin's entertainment industry protest against government shutdowns, demanding more support while they are unable to work because of the virus
A coffin is driven past the Reichstag building, as entertainment workers demand more support for the 'dying' industry
Angela Merkel announced that all bars, restaurants and other leisure facilities will have to close on Monday and stay shut through November, with schools and shops allowed to stay open
Merkel said the shutdown is necessary'to avoid an acute national health emergency' after the country reported some 15,000 new cases in a single day (file image, an abandoned street in Bavaria)
Chairs and tables stand outside a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany, which has been under curfew measures for a fortnight, but will now have to close throughout the whole of November
Coroanvirus cases are rising rapidly in most major European countries, prompting leaders to consider more lockdown measures. Curfews are now in place in Spain, Italy, and UK, with France and Germany considering circuit breaker shutdowns
Spain and Italy have both seen deaths increase in recent weeks, although they are lower than during the first wave - unlike in the Czech Republic and other countries in Eastern Europe where deaths have risen to record levels
Angela Merkel is also discussing a fresh lockdown with regional leaders today in an attempt to head off a sharp rise in cases (left) and as deaths begin to creep up (right)
Reports of fresh lockdowns caused European markets to open sharply down on Wednesday, with the British FTSE 100 (left) and French CAC 40 both down around 3 per cent
Germany's DAX index (left) and the Italian FTSE MIB (right) were both down around 3 per cent on open, compared to the previous day
While markets initially gained back a little of the loss, they went into the afternoon even lower than at the start of the day. Wall Street also opened around 2 per cent down, with the NASDAQ, S&P 500 and Dow Jones all falling.
In Germany, Merkel added that shops and schools will remain open, unlike during the first lockdown, while restaurants will be able to provide take-out food.
But she also appealed to people not to make unnecessary journeys and said hotels won’t be able to accommodate people on tourist trips.
The decision came hours after Germany’s disease control agency said a record 14,964 new confirmed cases were recorded across the country in the past day, taking the national total in the pandemic to 449,275.
Germany, which has 83 million people, also record 27 more virus-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098, the Robert Koch Institute said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, health experts in Spain have warned that another full lockdown could be on the cards as intensive care units fill up - with eight at risk of 'collapse'.
Hospitals in Aragon, Catalonia and Madrid, Castille and Leon, Navarra, Rioja, and Ceuta are all around 40 per cent full, according to La Vanguardia.
With cases still on the rise in those regions, experts estimate that all beds could be full within the next 20 days.
In Melilla, a Spanish enclave in northern Africa, the situation is dire - with two thirds of beds currently occupied.
That prompted Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez to call for a new state of emergency to be imposed on Monday, putting the framework in place for him to announce local or even national lockdowns at a moment's notice.
A wave of anti-lockdown protests have swept Europe as governments impose harsher lockdowns to curb the resurgence of coronavirus
People gather during a demonstration on October 28, 2020 in Barcelona against the closure imposed by the regional government on bars, restaurants and clubs
Protesters are seen at a demonstration on October 28 in Barcelona, Spain against the closure imposed by the regional government on bars, restaurants and clubs
Hospitals in Aragon, Catalonia and Madrid, Castille and Leon, Navarra, Rioja, and Ceuta are all around 40 per cent full, according to La Vanguardia. Pictured: Barcelona)
Protesters clashed with police on the streets of Rome overnight in the fifth straight night of unrest in Italy over new coronavirus curfews
Italy introduced an overnight curfew in Rome to try and slow the spread of coronavirus, amid fears that tougher measures could follow
Protesters in Rome took over the Piazza del Popolo on Tuesday night until they were dispersed by police dressed in riot uniforms
Police move in to clear protesters from the streets of Rome on Tuesday night, following similar demonstrations earlier in the week in Milan and Naples
Protesters burned wheelie bins and set off fireworks in the Spanish city of Seville overnight to protest against coronavirus curfews
A man watches fireworks go off in Seville, to protest against new coronavirus curfews
Spain has also announced fresh curfews and raised the prospect of another nationwide lockdown after cases soared (left) and deaths continued to creep upwards (right)
Italy announced coronavirus curfews for major cities including Rome, Naples and Milan this week, after coronavirus cases began rising sharply and deaths also began to mount
He also announced night-time curfews in an attempt to bring cases under control.
But Tomás Cobo, vice president of the Collegiate Medical Organization, told El Pais that full shutdown 'is the only measure for which there is scientific evidence.'
Protests continued into Wednesday in Spain, as taxi drivers gathered in Barcelona, angry that lockdowns have led to a fall in demand.
Similar demonstrations took place in Italy after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced overnight curfews in Rome, Naples and Milan which he said were designed to avoid a second full lockdown.
Macron was due to speak in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday night, with fears of another full lockdown looming.
Two industry sources briefed on the restrictions said rules would be almost identical to the first lockdown, with non-essential business forced to close and people told to stay indoors.
However, under the second lockdown schools would be allowed to stay open, and people would be allowed to go to work if their jobs cannot be done remotely.
New measures could come into effect from midnight on Thursday, and would last for four weeks.
Meanwhile, Angela Merkel was meeting with regional leaders in Germany on Wednesday, with plans for another full lockdown on the table.
It is thought she could announce more restrictions to begin on November 4 which would see bars and restaurants closed, with a ban on public gatherings.
Unlike the first lockdown, schools would remain open.
In Belgium, which has the most cases per capita in the world, the number of coronavirus hospital admissions all but matched the level in the first wave in the spring, public health institute showed.
The government will meet again on Friday, and Prime Minister Alexander de Croo could announce more stringent measures.
Medics in one hospital in Belgium are so overstretched that some staff who are themselves infected with Covid are continuing to treat patients.
Virtually every major European country has reported a record one-day total of coronavirus cases either in the last 24 hours, or within the last seven days.
Italy hit a record 22,000 cases on Tuesday and Germany a record 15,000.
Spain and Russia both reported a record total earlier this week, while France and the UK hit new highs the week prior.
Emmanuel Macron is thought to be on the verge of announcing another nationwide lockdown in France to try and curb cases which have been rising sharply for weeks (left), with deaths also starting to rise (right)
A restaurant-owner in Rome leaves a skeleton sitting outside his establishment, to protest the industry being 'killed off' by the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic
Top chefs and restaurant owners from Venice, Italy, gather around empty place settings in the Campo Santo Stefano after the government announced fresh hospitality curfews
A man wears a protective face mask as taxi drivers in Barcelona protest falling demand caused by coronavirus lockdowns
Even lockdown-free Sweden, whose approach had been praised for avoiding a severe economic downturn, reported a record 5,000 cases on Tuesday.
While increased testing means second wave totals are not comparable to the first wave, the rate at which cases are increasing - along with hospital admissions - is causing panic among European leaders.
On Tuesday, a dozen restaurant owners protested in front of Milan's city hall while as many stadium concession stand owners waved banners at the Lombardy regional headquarters.
'No one has thought of us,' said Giacomo Errico, the Lombardy president of FIVA Commercio representing 6,000 concession stand owners in the northern region, among 40,000 nationwide, that have been out of work since February.
Such peaceful protests have been staged up and down the Italian peninsula, while more violent protests erupting at night, increasingly culminating with vandalism, looting and clashes with police.
Italy's national prosecutor for terrorism and organized crime, Federico Cafiero de Raho, on Tuesday said subversives had infiltrated peaceful protests in the country. He said they included proponents of the extreme right and anarchists on the extreme left.
Investigators have also looked into indications that organized crime groups in the Naples area provoked violence at a peaceful protest.
France has warned of possible new lockdowns, include extending existing curfews, fully keeping residents at home on weekends or all week and closing non-essential businesses.
Since curfews were imposed a couple of weeks ago, French police have issued 14,000 fines, the interior minister said Tuesday.
Doctors are seeing growing pressure on France's emergency services and intensive care wards, where COVID patients now take up more than half of the beds.
In Spain, the Canary Islands was seeking to pass a law demanding that visitors arrive at the popular archipelago off northwest Africa with proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Russia, which has world's fourth highest tally of 1.5 million confirmed cases, is resisting a second lockdown.
But with cases rising at over 15,000 a day, the health agency ordered all Russians to wear masks in crowded public spaces, including public transport, and in closed spaces like taxis and elevators.
Merchants, restaurateurs and workers hold a mock funeral for their industry which they say is being killed by shutdowns
Business owners organized a staged funeral to protest against the lockdown imposed by the Italian government in Como
The Czech government has further tightened its regulations, imposing a nationwide curfew between 9 p.m and 6 a.m. that started Wednesday.
It previously limited free movement, closed stores, schools and restaurants, made it mandatory to wear face masks indoors and outdoors and banned sport competitions, but the number of infections has continued to rise.
Several demonstrations against the virus restrictions were planned for Wednesday in the capital of Prague.
Even Sweden, which avoided a national lockdown and generally imposed far lighter measures than other European countries, is now urging people to avoid shopping centers and shops and stay away from public transportation.
The World Health Organization said more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases were reported last week - the shortest time ever for such an exponential increase.
It said for the second consecutive week, the European region accounted for the biggest proportion of new cases, with more than 1.3 million cases or about 46% of the worldwide total.
The U.N. health agency said deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35 per cent spike since the previous week.
Overall, Europe has seen more than 250,000 virus-related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The WHO noted hospitalizations and ICU occupancy due to Covid increased in 21 European countries.
As European Union countries weigh tougher coronavirus restrictions, top EU officials on Wednesday urged the bloc's 27 nations to introduce common rules to test for the disease and track its spread to help prevent further damage to their economies.
European Council President Charles Michel, who will chair an extraordinary summit of EU leaders on Thursday evening focused on the pandemic, also urged them to prepare for logistical challenges likely to plague the rollout of any vaccines.
'We are in a storm. We are all in the same boat. And in this storm, we must keep cool heads,' Michel told French radio RTL.
Meanwhile European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels that Europe is confronted 'with two enemies at this time. We're dealing with the coronavirus; the virus itself and also corona fatigue. That is, people are becoming more and more fed up with the preventive measures.'
Michel also urged the leaders to prepare for prioritizing vaccinations.
'Based on the information we have, at the end of the year or early next year, 3 or 4 vaccine candidates could be available,' Michel said.
Von der Leyen said the commission will prolong its value added tax exemption on the purchase of vaccines and testing kits for a further six months.
'I think that this year's Christmas will be a different Christmas,' von der Leyen added.