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Germany drops Easter shutdown plan, Merkel apologizes

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany has dropped a plan to impose a five-day shutdown over Easter, which had prompted confusion and criticism

The plan was to make Thursday next week — the day before Good Friday — a “rest day,” with all shops closed, and only allow supermarkets to open on Easter Saturday. Since the Friday and Monday are already 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 had raised many questions about logistical details, which remained unresolved, and also was criticized because there had been no public discussion of it before it emerged in the small hours of Tuesday following lengthy haggling.

Merkel said the decision was taken with good intentions, but it is now clear it was a mistake.

She said: “This mistake is my mistake alone.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel told German state governors on Wednesday that she plans to halt an unexpected decision to impose a deeper coronavirus shutdown over Easter, news agency dpa reported.

Merkel on Wednesday convened a hastily arranged videoconference with the 16 state governors, who in highly decentralized Germany are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions, after their decision in the early hours of Tuesday prompted confusion and criticism.

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

News agency dpa reported, citing several unidentified participants, that Merkel told governors at the start of Wednesday’s meeting that she had decided to halt the plan. Merkel was due to make a public statement later Wednesday, and then face a previously scheduled question-and-answer session with lawmakers in parliament.

The plan had raised many questions about logistical details, which remained unresolved, and also was criticized because there had been no public discussion of it before it emerged following lengthy haggling in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Infection numbers in Germany have been rising again as the more contagious variant of the virus that was first detected in Britain has become dominant in the country.

Germany has registered more than 75,000 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic a year ago. The country’s disease control center also reported 15,815 new infection cases — a week ago there were 13,435 new cases.

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