'Merkel asked for forgiveness, when will Macron?' French leader urged to apologise

The German Chancellor on Wednesday ditched a short-lived plan for an extended Easter holiday shutdown and apologised to lockdown-weary Germans after widespread criticism. At talks that ran into the early hours of Tuesday, Mrs Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed to call on citizens to stay at home for five days over Easter in a bid to try and break a third COVID-19 wave

The measure would have meant all stores, including essential ones, closing for an extra day on April 1.

It triggered a backlash, with businesses lamenting more shutdowns and medical experts saying it was not tough enough to prevent the exponential spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

She told reporters: “The idea of an Easter shutdown was drafted with the best of intentions. We urgently need to stop and reverse the third wave.”

But it was not possible to implement the measures so quickly, Mrs Merkel said, apologising for the added uncertainty that it had caused Germans.

She admitted: “This mistake is mine alone.

“I ask all citizens for forgiveness.”

The move sparked calls in France for Emmanuel Macron to follow suit and admit to his mistakes too.

National Rally MEP Jerome Riviere tweeted: “To all who glorified the brutal containment policy of Merkel for Easter, she recognises ‘a mistake’ and asks ‘forgiveness’.

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“That should be a lesson for all of us. We were wrong to lack ambition, to lack the madness, I would say, to say: It’s possible, let’s do it.”

European Union leaders are struggling to speed up vaccinations, trailing countries like Britain and the United States and facing supply delays.

Mr Macron himself has been criticised at home for a faltering rollout which has been slowed by bureaucracy and public mistrust of vaccines.

The French President added: “We didn’t think it would happen that quickly… You can give that to the Americans, as early as the summer of 2020 they said: let’s pull out all the stops and do it.

“As far as we’re concerned, we didn’t go fast enough, strong enough on this.

“We thought the vaccines would take time to take off.”

The EU tightened its oversight of coronavirus vaccine exports on Wednesday, giving it greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates such as Britain, or which are not sharing doses they produce.

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