Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has decided to scrap a planned Easter shutdown devised at a Monday meeting between the states and federal government known as the Ministerpräsidentenkonferenz (MPK) after it was criticised from all sides. The plan foresaw a near-total shutdown of activity between Thursday, 1 April (Maundy Thursday) and Easter Monday.
Merkel announced the cancellation after another meeting with the 16 state leaders Wednesday morning. Early Wednesday afternoon she faced questioning in the Bundestag.
She described the botched Easter plan as her mistake. She said she took full responsibility and asked for citizens' forgiveness.
"A mistake must also be named as a mistake - and above all it must be corrected. And if possible, this has to be done in good time."
She said she "deeply regretted" that the back and forth on the decisions might have led to further uncertainty among the population.
Merkel again emphasised that Germany was in the midst of a third wave, triggered by the corona mutations. She said this wave was even deadlier than the previous two. Therefore, local authorities and the states must themselves make decisions on further regional restrictions if local 7-day incidence rates climbed above 100 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
In the Bundestag on Wednesday afternoon, Merkel answered questions from MPs. She said that testing in daycare centres and schools remained a priority and testing would take place twice a week. She also said that in the first half of April, a decision would be made on how to perform corona tests at private companies. Merkel did not rule out that if there were too few voluntary tests taking place, compulsory tests could be enforced.
MPK meetings under fire
The MPK meeting format - a conference call between the chancellor and the 16 state heads - was itself the subject of widespread criticism. Commentators and opposition politicians said the meetings often dragged on for hours and produced largely incomprehensible results.
Speaking on ZDF breakfast TV on Wednesday, Thuringia premier Minister Bodo Ramelow (Die Linke) said: "I looked at a screen for six hours and asked myself what was actually happening." The politician had been previously criticised for playing Candy Crush during the MPK corona meetings.