The German government pulled a proposal for a five-day Easter lockdown that had caused an uproar this week among voters and business leaders, despite a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus infections. The about-face sparked accusations from opposition parties that the government is losing control of the pandemic at home.
Chancellor Angela Merkel apologized for the ill-fated proposal on Wednesday, saying her government had failed to realize it would be legally and logistically impossible to implement at such short notice after it was announced in the early hours of Tuesday.
Voter confidence in the government has collapsed after four months of lockdown proved ineffective in preventing a sharp rebound in infections. There is also frustration at Germany’s slow vaccination campaign.
Despite more doses becoming available, the number of daily vaccinations has plateaued at less than 300,000 in recent days, showing the limitations of the effort, which has been hamstrung by red tape and vaccine hesitancy among the small group of eligible recipients.
The country registered 22,657 new infections on Wednesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, up from 17,504 a week ago, which brings the number of daily cases back to levels last seen in mid-January. Admissions to intensive-care units have also rebounded.
Belgium, in contrast, on Wednesday imposed a new four-week lockdown, reversing relaxation measures rolled out this year. From Monday, elementary and high schools will revert to remote learning and nonessential stores will close, as will all services involving direct contact, such as hairdressers and beauticians. Nonessential travel is forbidden.
The measures will run through April 19. Officials hope that by limiting interactions they can tamp down a recent rise in the number of admissions to hospitals and intensive-care units.
Belgium’s Covid-19 deaths, meanwhile, have held steady for roughly one month at a level not seen since October, before the country’s second wave. Officials credit vaccinations of elderly people for the trend.
In France, authorities said they are planning to extend lockdown restrictions beyond Paris and 15 other areas of the country as infections and ICU admissions continue to rise. A government spokesman said the new restrictions will apply to the Rhone, l’Aube and Nievre departments as of Sunday.