Chancellor Angela Merkel takes off her face mask when she arrives at the National Integration Summit at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on October 19, 2020.
FABRIZIO BENSCH | AFP | Getty Images
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed the plans to block the coronavirus over Easter due to criticism from experts and officials about the move.
The plans had called for a strict lockdown of the country during the Easter break – as all shops and churches would have closed from April 1st to 5th.
“We have to try to slow the third wave of the pandemic. Nevertheless, it was a mistake,” said Merkel during a press conference, according to the German news agency Deutsche Welle. “Ultimately, I have the final responsibility.”
“It is now important that I say this. A mistake should be labeled a mistake and, above all, corrected, preferably in good time,” she added to the news agency.
Merkel’s comments come after sharp criticism that a plan worked out earlier this week with regional leaders to impose a strict lockdown over Easter to stop a third wave of coronavirus cases currently seen in Germany, and largely of more infectious variants of the virus.
Critics of the move, which included health experts and business leaders, said the lockdown could do more harm than good, particularly plans to open grocery stores and supermarkets for a limited time while on vacation – a move that will likely result in crowds to rally. Others questioned the lost hours and wages the move would bring.
“It was well founded, but not really feasible in such a short time,” said Merkel on Wednesday, thinking about the original lockdown proposal. “Too many questions, from missing wages to lost time in factories and facilities, could not be adequately answered in a timely manner.”
It is a rare U-turn from a leader who is considered Europe’s figurehead and is seen as a steady hand in times of crisis. It is also another signal that Germany, a country lauded for its first response to the pandemic, is beginning to feel the burden of difficult choices as the pandemic continues to raise new challenges and concerns.
When the pandemic hit Europe in early 2020, Germany showed it was able to quickly test, track and isolate early cases of the virus to stop its spread. In the meantime, the modern health network has helped prevent as many deaths as there are in our continental neighbors.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Germany has recorded nearly 2.7 million cases and over 75,000 deaths to date. This is comparable to 4.3 million cases in the UK and over 126,000 deaths.
The country had recently started simplifying lockdown measures, allowing schools to reopen in February and some non-essential stores to resume customers earlier this month. As in other European countries, the company relied on coronavirus vaccines to slowly reopen its largest economy in Europe.
However, the introduction of vaccinations in the EU did not go according to plan. Germany, a country known for its organizational skills, surprised experts negatively with its sluggish program.
Germany is not the only one who has to adjust its plans for Easter. Italy will reintroduce a national lockdown for the second year in a row, while Paris and other parts of France are again partially locked.