France will reimpose a nationwide lockdown, while Germany will close bars and restaurants and impose other restrictions for a month in a last-ditch effort to protect hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with virus patients as Europe battles a second wave of the pandemic.
For months, European countries have tried to slow the spread of the virus through targeted restrictions aimed at avoiding the tough nationwide lockdowns imposed in the spring. But the measures have not succeeded at halting the surge in cases and hospitalizations, putting more drastic limits on daily life back in play.
This time, though, officials are prioritizing keeping schools and some economic activity open, in stark contrast to the spring, when movement was severely limited across much of Western Europe, and many businesses were ordered to close.
In a televised address on Wednesday evening, President Emmanuel Macron argued that officials had no choice but to impose another lockdown in the face of limited hospital capacity and rising cases across the country.
Mr. Macron stressed that much of Europe was facing a similar situation, “overwhelmed by a second wave that we now know will probably be harder and more deadly than the first.”
As in the spring, most nonessential businesses will close — including bars and restaurants — movement outside the home will be strictly limited, and private and public gatherings will be banned. Universities will pivot to online classes.
Some work sites, including in public services, factories, farms and construction, will remain open. While some people can travel to job sites, working from home will become the norm when possible, he said. Restrictions on retirement home visits and on funerals will not be as strict as in the spring.
“I know the weariness and the feeling of a day with no end,” Mr. Macron said, but he urged the French to remain “united.”
The lockdown will begin Thursday night and be in effect through at least Dec. 1, with financial assistance to affected businesses and tenants, he said.
About two-thirds of France’s population had already been subject to a 9 p.m. curfew announced two weeks ago. Yet cases have continued to rise: France reported 527 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, the country’s highest number since April.
European stocks sank to their lowest levels in months on Wednesday amid the echoes of the early days of the pandemic. The Stoxx Europe 600 index tumbled 3 percent to its lowest level since May. In Britain, the FTSE 100 index also fell more than 2 percent, to its lowest since April. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 3.53 percent Wednesday, its biggest one-day drop since June 11.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday that…