Around 100 delegates attended the event at a hotel in the Saxony-Anhalt region where top candidates for state elections in June and federal elections in September were chosen. The delegates sat close to each other in a conference room with individual tables and had removed their masks. Dessau, the town in which the party congress took place, has a coronavirus incidence of 84.9 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy leader of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP) described the pictures as “maximally insensitive and an intellectual impertinence”.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) legal expert Florian Post said he was outraged by the “double standards” shown by CDU members while schools, cinemas and pubs remained closed across Germany.
He said: “This is how politicians lose all credibility.”
German law states parties have to elect their candidates at face-to-face events and does not currently allow digital voting after the parliamentary groups could not agree on a reform of the legislation last summer.
Saxony-Anhalt CDU chiefs insisted strict hygiene measures were in place at the congress meeting.
A spokesman said participants had to present proof of a negative coronavirus test or were tested on-site and if they were obliged to wear face coverings if they moved from their seats.
Guests and media representatives were not allowed at the event.
READ MORE: Germany sacrifices own vaccine to attack Britain’s strategy
Germany has extended restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until March 7, though elementary schools and nurseries started reopening in 10 German states today and hair salons are due to open their doors again next week.
While coronavirus cases have been falling in recent weeks, the rate of decline has slowed with the seven-day incidence rate hovering at around 60 cases per 100,000.
Germany reported 4,369 new infections and 62 further deaths today.
Production problems and delivery delays have frustrated Germany’s rollout of vaccines so far. As of Sunday, Germany had administered just over 5 million doses.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht raised the prospect of lifting restrictions for those who have been vaccinated, once there is more data on whether it prevents transmission.
She said: “If we know that the vaccination actually leads to the fact that one is no longer infectious, then there is no longer any reason to restrict basic rights.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)