The World Health Organization says the European region - which includes Russia, Turkey, Israel and Central Asia, according to its definition - accounted for nearly half of the 2.8 million new coronavirus cases reported globally last week. Spahn tested positive for the virus last week and is now in quarantine. "I think that this year's Christmas will be a different Christmas".
Germany's first lockdown in spring this year was highly effective in flattening the curve of new COVID-19 infections in the country.
The new restrictions, widely dubbed a "lockdown light", are set to take effect on Monday and to last until November 30. Bars, cafes, restaurants would have to shut, although takeaways and delivery services can keep going.
Germany's Robert Koch Institute reported 14,964 new cases in the past 24 hours on Wednesday morning.
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care meanwhile has surged from just under 400 in early October to 1,470 by Tuesday.
The lockdown in France will begin Friday, however Macron said schools will remain open. Both figures marked the biggest such rise since May.
The virus is blamed for more than 250,000 deaths in Europe and about 227,000 in the US, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Germany's infection rates are still considerably lower than Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, but the worry is that the country's health system will be overwhelmed if cases keep rising.
The chancellor has repeatedly urged Germans over the past two weeks to reduce their social contacts in a bid to curb the spread of the virus - so far with little success. People will be asked not to travel for private, non-essential reasons, and overnight stays in hotels will be available only for necessary business trips. Merkel has said schools and nurseries are to be kept open.
"Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks", Merkel said.
The plans have caused anguish in Germany's hospitality industry, with thousands of venue owners staging a protest ahead of Wednesday's decision at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate to demand further government financial support.
In Italy, Milan's mayor, Giuseppe Sala, spoke out Wednesday against a lockdown in the Lombardy capital, the epicenter of Italy's new virus resurgence.
"This time we have two enemies", she said.
In Prague, demonstrators in horror masks marched against virus restrictions Wednesday even though the Czech Republic holds the grim European record of nearly 1,450 cases per 100,000 people in the past fortnight, closely followed by Belgium, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Officials say Germany, which has coped with the outbreak better than many of its neighboring European countries, is beginning to lose control of the situation, with local health authorities unable to trace contacts of those infected and some hospitals refusing to take in new patients.
But Merkel warned on Tuesday that Germany's health system could hit breaking point if coronavirus infections continue to spiral and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany was likely to reach 20,000 new infections a day by the end of the week.
"We have to act, and act now", Merkel added.
But Thomas Gitzel, chief economist at Liechtenstein's VP Bank Group, said a temporary lockdown could be less harmful than a prolonged slump in consumer spending as infection levels remain stubbornly high.