Angela Merkel Pleads with Germans as She Reverses Easter Lockdown.
Angela Merkel made an extraordinary appeal for forgiveness today, announcing the cancellation of plans for a strict Easter lockdown in Germany, which she described as “my mistake, and my mistake alone.”
Merkel and state officials agreed on Monday to a five-day shutdown, during which even grocery stores would be closed on all but one day, in order to halt the spiraling third wave of Covid-19.
However, it was met with widespread criticism from all sides, with companies lamenting the shutdown, workers raising concerns about holiday pay, and medical experts claiming the measures were insufficient to prevent the virus’s exponential spread.
Merkel was forced to make a dramatic U-turn just 36 hours later, admitting there was no way the Easter closure could be enforced at such short notice, with her party’s ratings already in freefall amid a long lockdown and slow vaccine rollout.
‘I accept full responsibility for everything,’ Merkel said at a hurriedly convened press conference, adding that ‘a mistake must be called a mistake, and above all, it must be corrected.’
‘I understand that this whole process has added to the confusion. ‘I deeply regret that, and I beg forgiveness from all of our people,’ she said.
Despite the U-turn, more than 37 million Germans may be subjected to curfews and be forced to wear masks in their own vehicles as a result of other measures agreed upon at the negotiations.
Merkel’s government has agreed to implement the stringent measures on a local level in areas where more than 100 people per 100,000 become infected each week.
However, nearly 200 of Germany’s 412 administrative districts have already done so, affecting nearly half of the country’s 83 million residents.
The measures, which could be implemented across much of Germany, would be the most severe the country has seen since the outbreak of the pandemic.
For months, France has been under a nationwide curfew, but Germany has never enforced a blanket stay-at-home order in the same way that the United Kingdom has.
In areas where the ’emergency brake’ threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 is exceeded, mandatory rapid testing and new restrictions on social contact will be considered.
Local governments will have the final say, but Berlin’s recommendations include wearing masks in cars and a possible night-time curfew to reduce infection rates.
According to German government statistics, around 37 million people live in districts with an infection rate of more than 100.
The center of Berlin, as well as major cities such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, and Cologne, which are all above the threshold, would be under strict lockdown.
On Monday, Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states reached an agreement on the new measures after marathon negotiations.
However, their decision to extend the lockdown into April and tighten the rules over Easter has enraged a government already under fire for Merkel’s vaccine rollout, which is lagging far behind that in the United Kingdom.
During the Easter shutdown, which runs from April 1 to 5, almost all stores will be closed, and religious services will be moved online.
However, during an unexpected second round of negotiations between Merkel and state premiers on Wednesday, the policy was scrapped.
Merkel conceded that there were too many logistical details, such as how and when employees would be paid during the shutdown, that needed to be clarified.
Merkel’s CDU leader, Armin Laschet, told a regional parliament meeting in North Rhine-Westphalia that the leaders had agreed the measure was “not enforceable in this form.”
The new restrictions come as infection rates in Germany continue to soar, with 15,813 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.
It’s up from 13,435 cases a week ago, putting the seven-day average at its highest in nearly two months.
The increasing numbers are attributed in part to the British strain of the virus, which experts fear will bring daily infections back to levels seen during the Christmas season, if not worse.
Furthermore, only 9.3% of the German population has received the first dose of the vaccine, leaving the vast majority of the country vulnerable to the third wave.
Even after the UK practically abandoned second doses in January and February, only 4.1 percent have received two doses, barely better than the UK’s 3.5 percent.
The country’s vaccine roll-out has been beset by issues, such as people refusing to take the AstraZeneca shot despite its proven efficacy.
With another 248 deaths today, Germany’s total death toll has surpassed 75,000, as the daily death rate continues to rise in the wake of rising cases.
The prolonged lockdown has eroded support for Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who were polling well after Germany’s initial success in combating the virus.
The party’s popularity has plummeted to its lowest level since before the pandemic, putting the September election in jeopardy.
Merkel is stepping down after 16 years in office, but her party and its Bavarian sister organization have yet to agree on a successor.
The party received a thrashing from voters in two recent regional elections, which were won by the Greens and the Social Democrats.