Chancellor Angela Merkel has summoned the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to an unexpected crisis meeting on Wednesday amid a backlash over pandemic measures, the chief of her CDU party said.
“The chancellor has invited the (regional leaders) at short notice for 11 o’clock today and I think that we will talk very critically there about what happened two days ago,” Armin Laschet told a regional parliament meeting in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
A government spokesman confirmed to AFP that a videoconference had been called on Wednesday morning “as a follow-up to Monday’s consultations”.
Merkel and the regional leaders have faced fierce criticism after agreeing to prolong shutdown measures and tighten them over Easter during marathon talks on Monday night.
As well as extending existing measures including keeping cultural, leisure and sporting facilities shut through to April 18, Merkel and the state premiers ordered a tougher shutdown between April 1 and 5.
Almost all shops will be closed during the five days, and religious services will be moved online over Easter. Only grocers will be allowed to open on Saturday April 3.
Media reports ahead of a Merkel press conference at 1130 GMT said that policy would now be scrapped.
Der Spiegel news magazine called the measures a “scandal”, claiming the government had “completely the wrong priorities” and should instead focus on improving its vaccination campaign and test strategy.
Daniel Guenther, the state premier of Schleswig-Holstein, told the DPA news agency Wednesday’s meeting would focus on “implementation problems” around the measures agreed over Easter.
The new restrictions come as infection numbers continue to rise in Germany, with 15,813 new cases reported in 24 hours on Wednesday by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency.
Patience is running thin in the country over a sluggish vaccine rollout, a delayed start to mass rapid testing and higher infection numbers despite months of shutdowns, with support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party at its lowest level for a year.