The French Government announced a nationwide lockdown today and German officials agreed to impose a four-week partial restriction period as European governments sought to stop a fast-rising tide of coronavirus cases.
In France, more than half of the country's intensive care units are already occupied by Covid-19 patients.
French military and commercial planes are ferrying critically ill virus patients to other regions as hospitals fill up.
President Emmanuel Macron announced a second nationwide lockdown from Saturday, but said schools would remain open.
France reported 288 new virus-related deaths in hospitals in 24 hours yesterday and 235 deaths in nursing homes over the previous four days. Both figures marked the biggest such rise since May.
"(France has been) overpowered by a second wave," Macron said in a national televised address today.
"Nothing is more important than human life," he added, noting that France has one of the biggest coronavirus rates in Europe currently.
"We are having 40,000-50,000 new identified contaminations each day," he said.
The Government is scheduled to lay out the details of the new lockdown tomorrow.
The World Health Organisation says the European region — which includes Russia, Turkey, Israel and Central Asia, according to its definition — accounted for almost half of the 2.8 million new coronavirus cases reported globally last week.
The UN health agency said virus-related deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35 per cent spike since the previous week, as well as hospitalisations due to Covid-19.
"We are deep in the second wave," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. "I think that this year's Christmas will be a different Christmas."
The European Union, Britain, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland alone accounted for 1.1 million cases over the past seven days, she said, "and we expect this number to keep rising in the next two to three weeks, and rapidly."
German officials have agreed to a four-week shutdown of restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and other leisure facilities in a bid to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Merkel and the country's 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and easing restrictions, agreed on the partial lockdown in a videoconference. It is set to take effect on Tuesday and last until the end of November.
Merkel said, "We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency."
Restaurants will still be allowed to serve take-out food. Shops and schools are to remain open, unlike during Germany's shutdown during the first phase of the pandemic.
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.
Overall, Europe has seen more than 250,000 virus-related deaths since the start of the outbreak, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the Czech Republic have also seen a surge in new cases over the past 14 days, while infections rates in Germany were lower but climbing steadily.
Anti-mask protesters have clashed with police in the German capital of Berlin, in several Italian cities and in the Czech Republic.
In Prague, demonstrators in horror masks marched against virus restrictions even though the Czech Republic holds the grim European record of almost 1450 cases per 100,000 people in the past fortnight, closely followed by Belgium, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.