Mr Macron is putting France back into lockdown after it recorded a new high in daily infections of 36,437 cases, with 244 deaths. The president warned that another 400,000 people could die in France if no action was taken. The measures will stay in place for at least a month, but schools will remain open throughout.
Germany recorded 14,964 virus cases on Wednesday – its highest daily figure in the country since the pandemic began and a doubling of cases in just a week – along with 85 deaths.
Britain, which has a smaller population than France or Germany, recorded 24,701 new cases – the second-highest on record – and 310 deaths.
Mrs Merkel will impose tough new measures on Germany for a month, starting on Monday, in the hope that infection rates will come down in time to rescue Christmas.
“We must break the wave of infection. We have to act now,” she said, adding that Germany’s test and trace system has been overwhelmed, as the source of infection cannot be traced in 75 per cent of cases.
Mrs Merkel said that without a fully functioning test and trace system local lockdowns do not work because “one cannot say any more that a certain area doesn’t contribute at all to infections”.
With similar or higher rates of infection in Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, more lockdowns are expected to follow. Italy reported a record high of nearly 25,000 new coronavirus infections, heightening concerns that it too could be heading for a second lockdown, while Switzerland imposed tighter restrictions from Thursday.
Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the defence select committee, urged Mr Johnson to show that the UK “has the resolve to keep our country open”, saying: “We are in a different place now, with better medicines and an improved national mindset and a greater resolve and ambition.
“In order to keep our economy open we should be looking for a more cognitive approach that puts those previous lessons learnt in place.”
The former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “We must avoid a national lockdown. Our economy will collapse and people will suffer. Without a growing and functional economy health services will falter and the quality of our lives will plunge.”