Germany pulls strict Easter virus shutdown amid backlash

Ruben Fields
March 24, 2021

The day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel joins state leaders for coronavirus response talks, political leaders were calling for a halt to lockdown relaxations and a return to a harder lockdown.

Germany's decision to extend the coronavirus lockdown and close stores over Easter could drive more businesses to bankruptcy and be counterproductive by encouraging people to flock to the shops beforehand, lobby groups said on Tuesday.

According to the German chancellor, the decision was made to toughen the isolation regime on April 1-5, and April 1 and April 3 were declared "days of rest".

Chancellor Angela Merkel takes responsibility, drops plans for a five-day shutdown in Germany over Easter that prompted confusion and criticism from the public and businesses. The government will ask churches to hold any Easter services online to avoid gatherings. "Case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again", Merkel said after announcing the measures.

At the talks earlier this week, Dr Merkel pushed for reversing plans for a gradual re-opening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp rise in the infection rate.

Merkel said that the situation is that we are facing a new virus of the same kind but with very different characteristics namely, more deadly, more infectious, and infectious for longer.

Mrs Merkel said the plan was a "mistake", adding that she took responsibility for the U-turn.

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Der Spiegel called the measures a "scandal", claiming the government had "completely the wrong priorities" and should instead focus on improving its vaccination campaign and test strategy.

Germany's coronavirus incidence rate has nearly doubled in the last month.

The bishops have said that they will consult internally on how to respond to the announcement.

The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases said the number of cases per 100,000 population over a week stood at 107 on Monday, above the 100 threshold at which intensive care units will start running out of capacity.

Thousands of protesters angry at Covid-19 restrictions rallied in cities across Europe over the weekend, even as several nations reimposed partial lockdowns to fight new surges in infections.

Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca has delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million doses it promised the EU for the first quarter, infuriating European leaders and complicating the continent's already struggling rollout.

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