German Chancellor Angela Merkel has walked back on her plan to impose a new hard lockdown during the upcoming Easter holiday, apologizing for causing confusion over the restrictions and saying the issue was “singularly and alone” her mistake.
Facing criticism over her plan for the five-day lockdown, Merkel said Wednesday, just a day after the initial announcement, that she was rescinding the order to label the Thursday and Saturday before Easter “rest days.”
The change means most businesses will no longer be forced to close on those two days, although other restrictions on social contact and gatherings will remain. Businesses will be closed as usual on the public holidays of Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
“To put it bluntly, the idea of an Easter shutdown was designed with the best of intentions; because we absolutely must succeed in slowing down and reversing the third wave of the pandemic,” she said during a hastily organized press conference at the German Chancellery on Wednesday.
“Nevertheless … it was not implementable well enough in the short time available,” she added, saying she “deeply regretted” causing additional uncertainty at the time Germany finds itself in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic which she said was caused by the new, more contagious variant of the virus.
Germany is currently battling a surge in infections. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s public health agency, recorded 15,813 new infections on Wednesday, an increase of 2,378 compared to a week earlier.
The number of Covid-19 deaths has surpassed 75,000 on Wednesday, with 248 people dying in a span of 24 hours, the RKI data showed.
Merkel said German regions have tools to take action to slow down the spread of the virus, including emergency brakes, restrictions on contacts and expanding testing and vaccination campaign. “The road is hard and it is rocky; it is marked by successes, but also by mistakes and setbacks,” she said. “But the virus will slowly but surely lose its terror.”