Germany's coronavirus situation is dramatic, chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday, while other European countries including Austria, Poland and Hungary recorded their highest case numbers in months.
Ms Merkel called for a push to distribute booster shots in Germany faster and appealed to those sceptical of vaccination to change their minds.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Robert Koch Institute reported that confirmed cases in Germany had increased by 52,826 as the pandemic's fourth wave tightened its grip on Europe.
"It is not too late to opt for a first vaccine shot," Ms Merkel told a congress of German city mayors. "Everyone who gets vaccinated protects himself and others. And if enough people get vaccinated that is the way out of the pandemic."
Record cases and lockdowns
Meanwhile, Austrian coronavirus infections hit a new daily record on Wednesday, the third day of a lockdown for those not fully vaccinated aimed at halting the surge.
Roughly 65 per cent of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the virus, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Austria also has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 925 per 100,000 people.
Soaring infections across Europe as winter approaches are prompting governments to consider reintroducing unpopular lockdowns. In contrast to the Netherlands, which has ordered a partial lockdown that applies to all, Austria has sought to avoid placing extra restrictions on the fully vaccinated.
Daily infections rose to 14,416 on Wednesday, official data showed, the first time they have passed the 14,000 mark. The peak of the biggest wave of infections before this was 9,586 about a year ago, when the country went into full lockdown.
Having barred the unvaccinated from places including restaurants, hotels, theatres and ski lifts 10 days ago, the government ordered a lockdown under which roughly two million people not fully vaccinated can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons.
Those include going to work, shopping for essentials and "stretching your legs" with no limit on time or distance. Given those sweeping categories, there are doubts about whether the lockdown can be properly enforced and whether it will succeed in countering the surge in infections.
Meanwhile, Hungary reported 10,265 new Covid infections on Wednesday, its highest daily tally since the end of March, the government said on its official coronavirus website.
In the country which has hardly any restrictions in place and where the vaccination rate is below the European Union average, the daily tally is getting close to the peak of 11,265 reached during the third wave of the pandemic.
Hungary, a country of 10 million, only has 5.78 million of its people fully vaccinated.
Poland reported 24,239 new daily Covid infections, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, the highest total since April.
There were also 463 Covid-related deaths reported on Wednesday. Poland, a country of around 38 million people, has reported 3,254,875 cases of the coronavirus and 79,624 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
A new wave of Covid infections has swept across Central Europe with hospitals struggling to cope in some countries like neighbouring Romania. Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have all tightened rules on mask wearing and introduced measures to curb infections.
In Hungary, the government of prime minister Viktor Orban, who is facing a close election in early 2022, has urged people to take up vaccines and announced mandatory inoculations at state institutions, also empowering private companies to make vaccinations mandatory for employees.
But it has refrained from making mask wearing mandatory in closed spaces - apart from on public transport and in hospitals - and there are no other restrictions in place. On Tuesday, the government said it was monitoring cases, and "if necessary will take further measures".