Merkel drops Easter shutdown plan for Germany, apologizes

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Kay Nietfeld/Pool via AP)

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday dropped plans for a five-day shutdown over Easter, which had prompted confusion and criticism. She called the idea a mistake and apologized to Germans.

Merkel announced the decision after a hastily arranged videoconference with Germany’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions. The same group, faced with rising coronavirus infections, had come up early Tuesday with the unexpected plan for tighter restrictions over Easter.

The plan was to make Thursday next week — the day before Good Friday — a “rest day,” with all shops closed, and allow only supermarkets to open on Easter Saturday. Since the Friday and Monday are already national holidays, that would have created a five-day shutdown of public life — on top of existing lockdown restrictions, which were extended through April 18.

The plan raised many logistical and legal questions, and also was criticized because there was no public discussion of it before it emerged Tuesday.

“The idea of an Easter shutdown was drawn up with the best intentions, because we must urgently manage to slow and reverse the third wave of the pandemic,” Merkel said. “However, the idea ... was a mistake — there were good reasons for it but it could not be implemented well enough in this short time.”

“This mistake is my mistake alone, because in the end I bear ultimate responsibility for everything,” she told reporters. “A mistake must be called a mistake, and above all it must be corrected — and if possible, that has to happen in time.”

“At the same time, of course I know that this whole matter triggers more uncertainty — I regret that deeply and I apologize to all citizens,” she said.

Merkel then extended the apology to parliament in a previously scheduled question-and-answer session. It was well-received by some opposition lawmakers, following months of criticism of finger-pointing between federal and regional officials.