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UK eases COVID restrictions while much of mainland Europe grapples with surge in cases

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By Euronews with AP
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The window of The Rutland Arms pub shows their opening date in Hammersmith, London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
The window of The Rutland Arms pub shows their opening date in Hammersmith, London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021.   -   Copyright  Frank Augstein/AP

Millions of people in England are poised for their first chance in months for haircuts, casual shopping and restaurant meals on Monday, as the government takes the next step on its lockdown-lifting road map.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are following their own, broadly similar, plans.

Nationwide restrictions have been in place in England since early January, with similar rules in the other parts of the UK, to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections that swept the country late last year, linked to a more transmissible new variant first identified in southeast England.

Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

But infections, hospitalisations and deaths have all fallen thanks to the lockdown, and a mass vaccination programme that has seen at least one dose given to more than 60% of the adult population.

Meanwhile, swathes of mainland Europe are seeing cases rocket, with some countries considering new measures, while others have already tightened restrictions.

Germany

While Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Saturday announced that 15.2% of the country's population - 12.7 million people - have had at least one dose of a vaccines, it said the situation is still "very, very serious`".

The nation logged 17,855 new infections and 104 deaths, compared to 12,196 cases and 68 deaths the week before.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel doubled down on her support for a short, nationwide "bridge lockdown" to fill the gap until more people get a vaccine.

France

France has just completed the first week of its nationwide lockdown, with all schools and nonessential shops closed until the end of April.

French Health Minister Oliver Veran on Sunday announced a new vaccine strategy that will see the waiting time between the two doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna jabs extended from four to six weeks.

The move aimed to help bolster the country's vaccine rollout, which, after experiencing problems with supplies and bureaucracy, has finally begun to ramp up following a slow start.

Romania

Marchers took to the streets Saturday in the Romanian capital of Bucharest to protest restrictive measures to fight the spread of the virus even as new daily infections and deaths rose in the nation.

The protest was held on the same day that the country passed the milestone of having 1 million confirmed COVID cases.

Hospital intensive care units are struggling to cope with the record demand of just under 1,500 COVID-19 patients and 12,000 others are in other wards.

Slovenia and Serbia

Not everywhere on the continent was reintroducing measures: two further countries that are set to loosen restrictions on Monday are Slovenia and Serbia.

The former will scrap a curfew between 10 pm and 5 am, pre-schools and primary schools are set to reopen, along with galleries, museums and hairdressers.

Shopping centres will welcome customers on Monday in Serbia, but restaurants must continue to serve customers outside.