Germany’s Merkel admits ‘mistake’ and reverses Easter lockdown

German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes her face protection mask off as she arrives for the National Integration Summit at the Chancellery in Berlin, on October 19, 2020.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reversed plans for a coronavirus lockdown over Easter, amid criticism from experts and officials over the move.

Speaking during a press conference Wednesday, Merkel said that plans to place the country in a strict lockdown over the Easter holiday — a move which would have seen all shops close as well as churches from April 1-5 — was a “mistake.”

“We must try to slow down the third wave of the pandemic. Nevertheless, it was a mistake,” Merkel said, according to German news outlet Deutsche Welle, adding that “at the end of the day, I carry the last responsibility.”

“It’s now important for me to say so here. A mistake should be called a mistake and above all, it should be corrected, preferably in good time,” she added, according to the news agency.

Merkel’s comments come after sharp criticism that a plan, devised earlier this week with regional leaders, to impose a strict lockdown over the Easter period would help to halt a third wave of coronavirus cases currently being seen in Germany, largely driven by more infectious variants of the virus.

Critics of the move, which included health experts and business leaders, said the lockdown could cause more harm than good, particularly the plans to allow grocery stores and supermarkets to open for a limited amount of time over the holiday — a move likely to cause crowds to gather. Others questioned the lost working hours and wages the move would entail.

“It was well reasoned, but was not really doable in such a short time,” Merkel said, reflecting on the original lockdown proposal, on Wednesday. “Too many questions, from missing wages through to the loss of time in factories and facilities, could not be adequately answered in time.”

It’s a rare U-turn from a leader considered Europe’s figurehead and seen as a steady hand during times of crisis. It’s also a further signal that Germany, a country lauded for its initial response to the pandemic, is starting to feel the strain of difficult decisions having to be made as the pandemic continues to throw up new challenges and concerns.

When the pandemic emerged in Europe in early 2020, Germany showed it was able to quickly test, trace and isolate early cases of the virus, helping to stop its spread. Meanwhile, its modern health care network helped it to prevent as many deaths as were seen in its continental neighbors.

To date, Germany has recorded almost 2.7 million cases and over 75,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. This compares to the U.K.’s 4.3 million cases and over 126,000 deaths.

The country had started to ease lockdown measures recently, allowing schools to reopen in February and some non-essential shops to admit customers again earlier this month. Like other European nations, it was banking on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines to enable it to slowly reopen its economy, the largest in Europe.

Vaccination rollouts have not gone to plan in the EU, however, with Germany, a country known for its organizational skills, negatively surprising experts with its sluggish program.

Germany is not alone in having to adjust plans around Easter; Italy is to reimpose a national lockdown over the period for the second-year running while Paris and other parts of France are again under a partial lockdown.

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