Merkel set to plunge 40million Germans into TOUGHER lockdown as Holland & Belgium may follow suit after AZ jab chaos

GERMANY is heading for a harsher lockdown as Europe is hit by a third Covid wave and a botched vaccine rollout. 

The Netherlands and Belgium are also warning of tougher restrictions as cases and deaths spike. 

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Europe's third wave of Covid infections is gathering pace as its vaccine roll-out has seen just eight per cent of its population given at least one dose.

Meanwhile the UK, which is to begin lifting its lockdown in the coming weeks amid falling cases, has given at least one dose to 40 per cent of its total population.

That has led the EU to threaten to block AstraZeneca's jabs from coming to Britain in order to shore up its supplies.

But a new YouGov poll today revealed most people in the biggest European Union member states — including Germany, France, Spain and Italy — now view AstraZeneca's vaccine as unsafe.

This is largely thanks to the EU countries’ knee-jerk ban after dozens of isolated cases of blood clots and brain hemorrhages.

Without significant restrictions, the number of new infections will increase to the point that the health system risks being overwhelmed by April

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, had begun easing restrictions, first reopening schools in late February, before allowing hairdressers and some shops to resume business in March.

But with the national incidence rate reached 107.3 today, with more than 7,700 new cases and 50 deaths reported, lifting lockdown is off the table. 

German chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Germany's regional leaders today for a summit that was supposed to be about easing restrictions.

Lifting restrictions on dining, cultural and leisure facilities will now have to be delayed and instead, worst-hit areas may from today have to reimpose measures and order shops and some schools to close again.

Most controversially, overnight curfews could be imposed for the first time across the country in regions where the seven-day incidence rate surpasses 100 per 100,000 people.

A draft document seen by news agency AFP ahead of a strategy meeting reads: "Without significant restrictions, the number of new infections will increase to the point that the health system risks being overwhelmed by April.”

Lars Schaade, vice president of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, told reporters on Friday: 'It is very possible that we will have… very high case numbers, many severe cases and deaths, and hospitals that are overwhelmed.”

Meanwhile, ministers in the Netherlands and Belgium have also warned that measures may have to get stricter as cases and deaths spiral. 

Frank Vandenbroucke, the Belgian health minister, said today he was “very worried” about the current situation in the country and warned easing measures after Easter is now in doubt.

Duch ministers met yesterday to discuss a possible easing of lockdown measures, but concluded  “pressure on the system is too high' to allow even a partial return to normality”.

Reopening universities and outdoor dining, which had been due to kick in from March 31 will likely not take place, De Telegraaf reported.

In France, thousands of fed-up people took to the streets of Marseilles yesterday to flout lockdown rules.

Similar protests also took place in Germany, Holland, Austria, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Serbia and Poland.

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