France will introduce a new coronavirus lockdown from Friday, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.
In his second major televised address in two weeks, Mr Macron said France was âoverwhelmed by the pace at which the virus is spreading", which was âworse than even the most pessimistic projectionsâ.
Average daily infections more than doubled from 17,000 to 36,000 in the two weeks since his last address.
The latest figures represent a record level of new cases in the country, more than seven times the peak from the first wave earlier this year.
France now has the highest number of new cases in Europe. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday announced a four-week shutdown of bars, restaurants and theatres. "We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency," she said.
Both Italy and Germany set records for new infections on Wednesday, with Italy reporting nearly 25,000 in a single day and Germany logging almost 15,000.
Mr Macron said intensive care units in hospitals were already at 58 per cent capacity, despite increasing the number of beds from 5,000 to 6,000 in recent months.
There are plans to increase the capacity to 10,000 beds but medical experts warned that hospitals would be overwhelmed by mid-November if no action is taken. Moving patients from one region to another was no longer an option, Mr Macron said, because âthe virus is everywhereâ.
The new lockdown is similar to the first national lockdown that was imposed in March, which was one of the strictest in the world.
People will once again be required to carry a form with them when they leave their homes.
Only going to work, buying food, medical appointments and essential exercise is permitted. All non-essential businesses, like cafes and bars, will also close.
One significant difference from the first national lockdown is that schools will remain open.
The new measures will come into place at midnight on Thursday and remain until at least mid-December.
Millions of Parisians fled the city after Mr Macron announced the first lockdown in March, and Google Maps data appeared to show a similar trend on Wednesday evening.
In the hours leading up to Mr Macronâs address on Wednesday evening, roads around Paris experienced severe traffic as fears spread online that a new lockdown would be introduced.
He concluded his address by urging national unity. âWe need to stay united to overcome this virus,â he said.