Angela Merkel appealed directly to the German people on Saturday to “stay at home whenever possible” after a meeting with state leaders last week failed to produce the tough coronavirus measures she had been pushing for.
Speaking on her weekly podcast, the veteran Chancellor told Germans that “every day counts” as she encouraged them to strictly limit their movement and personal contacts.
“I appeal to you. Please avoid any trip that is not totally really necessary, avoid celebrations that are not necessary. Please stay at home whenever possible,” she said on the same day that reported daily cases hit a new record of over 7,800.
Implying that a strict lockdown could be imposed over the festive period if case numbers do not come down, Ms Merkel said that “what our Christmas will be like will be decided in the coming days and weeks.”
The message appears to be a rare attempt to bypass long-winded political negotiations via an emotional appeal to the German public.
The 66-year-old Chancellor, widely praised for her sober management of the pandemic during the spring, has struggled to convince all of the country’s state leaders to get on board with national restrictions, even as case numbers soar.
At a meeting of the 16 Bundesländer at the Chancellery on Wednesday, talks went on long into the evening. But the states agreed to little beyond vague commitments to tighten the rules on public gatherings and mask wearing if case numbers were to rise above 35 per 100,000 people.
Ms Merkel reportedly warned the governors that “what we are announcing is not tough enough to avert disaster.”
On issues such as health and education policy, the German political system is highly decentralized, meaning that the Chancellor is reliant on the good will of state leaders to be able to announce national pandemic rules.
Adding to the confusion, administrative courts in several states have overturned local rules on bar and restaurant closing times, as well as lifting bans on overnight stays for people from domestic hotspots. Judges have described the measures as disproportionate.
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