Germany extended its blockade by three weeks on Wednesday night, while France and Italy are considering stricter restrictions on Covid-19 in the face of new options.
The German government has also drawn up a five-step plan to phase out restrictions, despite growing infections and slow vaccination.
“There are many examples of a dramatic third wave in Europe, and this danger, we must not be deceived, is also a danger to us,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel.
According to the plan, most blocking measures will remain in force at least until the end of the month, but some insignificant stores will be able to open from next week.
Further relaxation, including the opening of shops, museums and open-air dinners, will only be possible in areas where infections are relatively low. The plan also envisions an increase in rapid tests, which will be mandatory for entry into certain places such as outdoor eateries or cinemas, depending on local levels of infection.
The plan includes an “emergency stop” mechanism to return to current blocking rules if the infection rate rises again.
On Thursday, the German Public Health Agency reported nearly 12,000 new cases, similar to a week earlier. The average duration of cases for seven days is just over 60 per 100,000 people recently, from a peak of about 200 just before Christmas.
New daily infections in Italy rose to 20,884 on Wednesday, the highest in two months, according to the country’s Civil Protection Agency. Doctors blame the increase in new cases of circulating more virulent strains of viruses. Hospitalizations of patients with Covid-19, including in intensive care units, are also increasing.
Worsened prospects are likely to force the Italian government to impose more restrictions on some regions, such as a ban on urban traffic and a complete shutdown of bars and restaurants, which are now only open part of the day.
In France, Prime Minister Jean Castex is due to hold a press conference later Thursday on whether the government will impose new restrictions.
With the slow spread of the vaccine, AstraZeneca CEO in France Olivier Nataf said the number of doses of AstraZeneca administered in the country was increasing rapidly as primary care physicians were allowed to fire.