After backlash, Merkel calls new talks on German lockdown

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BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has an unexpected meeting with leaders of the federal states for Wednesday (March 24) morning to discuss the coronavirus pandemic after they agreed on Tuesday to extend the lockdown to April 18.

At talks on Monday with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, Dr Merkel had pushed for a tougher stance to fight the pandemic, reversing plans for a gradual reopening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp rise in the infection rate.

But state premiers pushed back at the talks that ran into the early hours of Tuesday, agreeing to call on citizens to stay at home for only five days over the the holidays to try to break a third wave of the pandemic.

The drew criticism from all sides, with businesses lamenting the extended lockdown and medical experts saying the new measures were not tough enough to prevent the exponential spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

Mr Armin Laschet, the leader of Dr Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the premier of Germany’s most populous state, told the regional Parliament he expected a very critical discussion about what had happened during the talks earlier this week.

Dr Merkel’s CDU has come under increasing for its handling of the pandemic due to the pace of vaccinations and a corruption scandal over the procurement of face masks, hurting its poll ratings ahead of a national election in September.

Germany reported another 15,813 infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 2,690,523, while the death toll rose by 248 to 75,212.

The number of cases per 100,000 in the last seven days, which the government has used as a key metric to decide on lockdown steps, was stable at 108.

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