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Germany: Merkel apologises and scraps plans for five-day Easter lockdown

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Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel
Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel   -   Copyright  AP
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Angela Merkel has apologised and admitted an error over plans to impose a five-day shutdown in Germany over Easter.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, Germany's chancellor scrapped the proposal, which had provoked criticism and confusion.

"An error must be called an error and, more importantly, it must be corrected and if possible in time," said Merkel.

"I know that this proposal has caused further uncertainty, I deeply regret it, and for that, I ask forgiveness from all citizens."

The plan was to make Thursday next week — the day before Good Friday — a “rest day,” with all shops closed, and only allow supermarkets to open on Easter Saturday.

Since the Friday and Monday are already holidays, that would have created a five-day shutdown of public life — on top of existing lockdown restrictions, which were extended through April 18.

But Merkel announced the decision had been reviewed after she had called a hastily arranged videoconference on Wednesday with Germany’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions. The same group had come up with the unexpected plan for deeper restrictions over Easter, which was announced early Tuesday.

The plan had raised many questions about logistical details, which remained unresolved, and also was criticised because there had been no public discussion of it before it emerged in the small hours of Tuesday.

Merkel said the decision was taken with good intentions, but it is now clear it was a mistake, adding it was "my mistake alone".

It comes as many countries across Europe suspend the lifting of restrictions in a bid to try and stop a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

Here is a round-up of the latest changes.

The Netherlands extends restrictions...

Any hope of a lifting of restrictions in the Netherlands has been dashed.

The country's tough lockdown is being extended for a further three weeks - an alarming rise in infections is to blame.

Although the curfew start time is being pushed back by an hour to 10 pm, bars and restaurants that have been closed since mid-October will remain shut.

Dutch caretaker Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, called again for people to stick with the measures put in place.

"I would like one more time to call to adhere to the basic rules," he said. "We have done that before.

"We managed to push the third wave a bit ahead of us and we can do that again. I am convinced that our own behaviour remains the fastest way to relaxation of measures,

Norway postpones plan to lift restrictions

Norway, too, is postponing a plan to reopen society. It has new national measures including a ban on the public serving of alcohol. There had been hopes for a plan in late March for the gradual unwinding of its restrictions but an increase in hospitalisations led by more contagious variants of the virus has stopped that.

Spain and Greece set to open to UK travellers

But looking towards summer, Greece and Spain are to ease restrictions on flights from the UK.

Greece will begin accepting test-run flights next month, while Spain is accepting UK flights next week.

But Johnson's government is, for the moment, introducing fines of 5,000 pounds for anyone trying to travel abroad without good reason.