Germany tightens lockdown for Easter, France calls for faster rollout

(Update 1: Alters headline/lede/slug/adds France)

Berlin/Paris, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- Germany will tighten its lockdown measures for a five-day period over the Easter holidays while in France President Emmanuel Macron called for the vaccine rollout to be sped up as a new surge in Covid-19 cases grips both nations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the country’s 16 federal states agreed to bolster the current coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday following 11 hours of talks to assess the country’s current pandemic situation.

Political leaders agreed that all stores apart from grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations would close during the holiday weekend between April 1 through 5.

Public gatherings will be banned during that time, too.

Merkel said the number of Covid-19 cases was rising exponentially, adding the situation in Germany was serious.

Leaders also agreed to extend the country’s coronavirus lockdown until April 18, with private gatherings limited to one person from another household.

“It is absolutely essential that we are hitting the emergency brake,” said Merkel, justifying the strict measures in view of the growing number of infections.

The chancellor underlined that it is important to ease the pressure on intensive care units as well as control the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Lockdown measures have left almost all shops in Germany shut since December 16, while restaurants and bars have been closed since early November.

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