After the backlash, Merkel drops the Easter development plans: sources
© Reuters. Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a press conference after speaking with the prime ministers about extending the COVID-19 lockdown
By Holger Hansen
BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of state and government of the federal states will drop a plan agreed on Tuesday for two additional “days of rest” around the Easter holidays in order to break a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday.
In talks that lasted until the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, Merkel and the heads of state and government of the 16 German federal states had agreed to ask citizens to stay at home for five days during the Easter break, and April 1 and 3 as declare additional rest days.
Merkel, who had wanted an even tougher stance to combat the pandemic, called an unexpected meeting with heads of state and government on Wednesday morning to discuss the situation.
The crisis meeting took place amid growing public frustration with the conservative-led government over the slow roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and the expanded lockdown measures.
“No plan, no hint, no courage,” was a headline in the online edition of the mass-selling Bild daily newspaper above a picture of Merkel and two heads of state.
A poll released Wednesday found that support for Merkel’s Conservatives fell to its lowest level in over a year ahead of the September national elections. Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, will step down before the vote.
In talks earlier this week, Merkel urged the reversal of plans for a gradual reopening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp spike in the infection rate.
But prime ministers pushed back, only agreeing to urge citizens to stay home five days during the Easter break in an attempt to break a third wave of the pandemic.
The move was criticized from all sides. Companies lamented the extended lockdown, and medical experts said the new measures weren’t tough enough to prevent the exponential spread of more infectious variants of the virus.
Armin Laschet, chairman of Merkel’s CDU and prime minister of Germany’s most populous state, told the regional parliament that he expected a very critical discussion on Wednesday about what had happened during the talks earlier this week.
The CDU suffered historic defeats in two state elections earlier this month, which were marked by frustration over the slow introduction of the vaccine and the extended lockdown measures, as well as a scandal over the procurement of face masks.
The conservative bloc has not yet decided on a candidate for chancellor and is already missing the “Merkel bonus” that it brought them with four successive national election victories.
Germany, with a total population of 83 million people, reported another 15,813 infections on Wednesday, bringing the number to 2,690,523, while the death toll rose 248 to 75,212.
The number of cases per 100,000 in the past seven days, which the government used as a key metric in deciding on lockout steps, has remained stable at 108.
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