Germany has been under a strict coronavirus clampdown since December, which has seen non-essential shops and schools along with pubs and restaurants forced to shut up shop. The German chancellor had been in favour of extending the lockdown as a result of the emergence of more contagious Covid strains. She has warned the country that it could face a “third wave” if restrictions are lifted too quickly.
However, regional leaders have decided to defy the Chancellor and take matters into their own hands.
Even her staunchest lockdown supporter, Bavarian leader Markus Söder, is said to be at odds with her position.
Several of the country’s regions will now allow limited opening of businesses from Monday, such as garden centres, florists and nail parlours.
Ms Merkel appears to be losing public support for her hard stance on lockdown.
According to a poll conducted by the German TV channel ZDF, 56 percent supported plans to partially ease restrictions, whereas 41 percent were opposed.
The Chancellor is scheduled to meet state leaders on March 3, to discuss the lifting of restrictions, which at the moment are in place until March 7.
Her economics minister Peter Altmaier met with his counterparts from the country’s 16 federal states.
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Medical authorities have so far only been able to administer 240,000 of the 1.54 million doses it has acquired from the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company.
The vaccine is currently not recommended in Germany for over-65s and Ms Merkel is 66.
Scientists say that there is not enough data yet to prove the efficacy of the vaccine in those over 65.
Ms Merkel told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper: “I do not belong to the recommended age group for AstraZeneca.”