One day after imposing a 5-day ultra-strict lockdown set to take effect over Easter weekend (presumably to head off any holiday-inspired spread), German Chancellor Angela Merkel has abandoned the plan, though Germany is still planning to extend its current restrictions through April 18.
Merkel is dropping the plan after it inspired an intense public backlash and resistance by politicians in the opposition and Merkel's coalition, anonymous sources reportedly told Bloomberg. Merkel informed the leaders of Germany's 16 states in a video call on Wednesday morning that she was dropping the five-day lockdown, which would have closed all businesses. Even supermarkets would have been forced to limit operations.
The planned restrictions also prohibited private gatherings of more than five adults from two different households, and required Easter services at German churches to be conducted virtually, angering Germans who already spent their Christmas holiday isolated from family members. During a meeting earlier this week, Germany's local leaders reluctantly assented to the Chancellor's plan.
"I take full responsibility for this misjudgement," Merkel told the state leaders. Asking forgiveness for the plan, she said that the shutdown was "created with the best of intentions" but it's strictures are simply unable to be implemented.
Many within Merkel's ruling Christian-Democrat-led coalition applauded her decision. Bavarian Premier Markus Soder said that he respected the chancellor’s change of heart, while pointing out that the proposed restrictions had faced questions over their legality, RT reports.
Merkel faced a barrage of criticism over the measures, including a ban on church services, which was particularly controversial.
Clergy, and even Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a longtime political ally, urged the chancellor to reconsider. Some state leaders even proclaimed that they would not abide by the rule.
Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer said that his state would not prevent churches from holding in-person services.
Before the U-turn, Merkel had insisted that the 5-day ultra-restrictive lockdown was necessary to prevent a "third wave" of COVID from worsening in Europe.
Other European countries, including France and the Netherlands, have revived or extended their lockdowns (or at least announced their intentions to do so).
In Germany, some areas of the country have begun to slowly reopen, while the German government has implemented a plan that would reverse the easing of restrictions if weekly cases per 100K residents rises above 100. Germany has remained in varying degrees of lockdown for roughly a year now, as the prolonged restrictions, originally described as temporary, sparked a string of demonstrations from frustrated citizens.