Germany and France were bracing for new lockdowns Wednesday, as governments sought to stop the fast-rising tide of coronavirus cases that are beginning to fill European hospitals.
French markets opened lower on expectations that President Emmanuel Macron will announce tough measures during a televised evening address to the nation.
Doctors in France are calling on the government to impose a new nationwide lockdown, noting that more than half of the country's intensive care units are now occupied by COVID-19 patients and medical staff are under increasing strains.
Most parts of France were coloured deep red on a map representing COVID-cases from the European Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, signifying more than 240 cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks.
On Tuesday alone, the country had a big spike in the number of daily deaths from COVID-19, recording an additional 523 deaths and another 33,417 new infections.
Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic are seeing similarly high rates of infection, while Germany was still colored in orange - indicating that the average number of new cases there is still under 120 per 100,000 over the last 14 days.
Still, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was pressing governors of the country's 16 states to quickly agree a partial lockdown Wednesday that could include further restrictions on public gatherings and the closure of bars and restaurants.
The plan has caused anguish in Germany's hospitality industry, with thousands of venue owners staging a protest Wednesday at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to demand further financial support from the government.
While Germany has fared better than many of its neighboring European countries during the pandemic, officials warn that it, too, is beginning to lose control of the situation.