Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the German people for forgiveness after making a rare public apology for sparking massive criticism with plans for a five-day Easter shutdown.
Merkel dropped the proposal, calling it a “mistake,” after a hastily-arranged video conference with the heads of Germany’s 16 states around 33 hours after announcing the move. She defended one of Germany’s toughest steps since the start of the pandemic but said there wasn’t enough time to implement properly.
“To be absolutely clear, this mistake is solely and alone my mistake as in end I am the one who carries the final responsibility,” she said on Wednesday. “I deeply regret this and ask all
citizens for forgiveness.”
The meeting followed marathon talks between the chancellor and state leaders earlier, which produced no new policies to contain disease as a third wave of infections grips Europe’s largest economy.
The Easter lockdown was the only fresh initiative after more than 11 hours of tense discussions that ended. The plan spurred widespread criticism, caught officials off guard and created confusion over the implementation.
Germany has struggled to lay out a clear plan in the face of a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases and amid a sluggish vaccination campaign. That’s causing public frustration over the government’s handling of the crisis to grow just six months before a national election.
Germany earlier this week extended a lockdown until April 18, which has effectively been in place for four months. The measures are relatively mild compared to other countries and include the partial closing of non-essential stores and the shutdown of hotels, restaurants, gyms and cultural venues.
Merkel is appearing before German parliament Wednesday afternoon to defend her policies.
Merkel’s conservative bloc — also struggling with a scandal over lawmakers profiting off the pandemic — has tumbled in the polls. Its lead over the second-placed Greens narrowed to 8 percentage points this week, according to a polling average calculated by Bloomberg.
Opposition lawmakers from the Free Democrats and the Left party, said that Merkel should call for a vote of confidence.
Armin Laschet, the head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic party and a leading contender to be the bloc’s chancellor candidate, said backing off the Easter lockdown was the right thing to do.
“You can’t just introduce a public holiday within ten days,” he told lawmakers in North Rhine-Westphalia, where he is also state premier.