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In Reversal, Merkel Drops Plan For Lockdown In Germany Ahead Of Easter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is revoking her own plan for a tight national lockdown ahead of the long Easter holiday. The abrupt move comes one day after Merkel announced the lockdown, warning that because of rising infection rates and new coronavirus variants, Germany is facing "a new pandemic."

Merkel called the plan "a mistake" on Wednesday, and she took the blame for the decision in a statement posted by her Christian Democratic Union party.

The idea to lock down from April 1 to April 5 was a good one, Merkel said, but it couldn't be implemented well in the short period before it was to take effect. She added that there were too many unresolved questions about lost wages at shops and companies.

The enhanced lockdown would have restricted Germans from gathering in large groups, including at churches. It would have discouraged domestic travel and forced many businesses to close around the long Easter weekend — a normally bustling time. But the decision immediately prompted a backlash from churches as well as from travel and hospitality industries, where many companies are teetering on the brink of insolvency.

Merkel announced the lockdown plan after a marathon session with the leaders of Germany's 16 states that began Monday afternoon. After 12 hours, they agreed to pull the "emergency brake" on restrictions across all of Germany during the Easter weekend. And more broadly, they opted to reinstate lockdown restrictions in areas with high infection rates, according to Deutsche Welle.

But one day later, Merkel dropped her plan after speaking to the group of state leaders again.

Germany is enduring a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with infection rates rising at a pace not seen since the record spike in December and January. The numbers fell sharply in February, but since then, they've been curving upward once again.

Last week, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that vaccines would not arrive quickly enough to reverse the trend. New infections have been rising at a "very clearly exponential rate," he said.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.