The new steps are the toughest since the spring and follow added restrictions in Spain and Italy aimed at curbing the spread of the virus and easing the strain on hospitals.
BRUSSELS — France announced a second nationwide lockdown and Germany moved to the very edge of one on Wednesday, testing their pandemic-weary populations as they tried to stop a mounting new wave of coronavirus infections from swamping hospitals and undoing hopes of economic recovery.
The new measures followed on the heels of severe new restrictions in other European countries, from Belgium to Italy to the Czech Republic. While they mostly fell short of the total lockdowns of the spring — a “lockdown lite,” the Germans called it — they raised the specter of a dark winter of relative confinement, leaving leaders in Paris and Berlin pleading with their frustrated publics to follow the new rules.
“I know the weariness and this feeling of a day with no end that is overcoming all of us,” France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, said Wednesday in a national address. “We must stick together and remain united, and not give in to the poison of division. This period is hard precisely because it is testing our resilience and our unity.’’
Underscoring the need for urgent action, he and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany drew on hard lessons learned over the last eight months, attempting to keep open the parts of the economy and everyday life deemed necessary or less risky, while shutting almost everything else. Any tougher course risked sparking popular rebellion.
The pandemic surge and new lockdowns battered stock markets in Europe, as in the United States, with major indexes down about 3 percent Wednesday.