Merkel backs 'short, uniform lockdown' across Germany

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FILE - In this Wednesday, May 6, 2020 file photo Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address the media during a joint press conference in Berlin, Germany. Armin Laschet, a governor who also leads Merkels party, called this week for a vaguely defined 2-3 week bridge lockdown to control infections while Germany steps up a so-far slow vaccination campaign. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has thrown her weight behind calls for a 'short, uniform lockdown'. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file, pool)

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday threw her weight behind a “short, uniform lockdown” as the country grapples with a high level of coronavirus cases fueled by the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in Britain.

German state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting virus restrictions, have taken differing approaches lately. Some have continued to back limited reopening steps while others advocate a stricter shutdown.

Armin Laschet, a governor who also leads Merkel’s conservative party, called this week for a vaguely defined 2-3 week “bridge lockdown” to control infections while Germany steps up a so-far slow vaccination campaign.

Laschet also called for a meeting between Merkel and governors to coordinate restrictions to be moved up from next Monday, but hit resistance from his colleagues. Merkel spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Wednesday there is “no majority” for that.

But Demmer said “every call for a short, uniform lockdown is right.” She said figures on new cases aren’t particularly good at the moment, because of lower testing and reporting over Easter, but a rapid rise in the number of occupied intensive care beds “speaks a very clear language.”

“Joint action would be desirable,” she stressed. “The diversity of the rules that have been agreed on isn't contributing at the moment to safety and acceptance.”

Merkel and the 16 state governors confer every few weeks on coronavirus measures. Those sometimes sprawling and ill-tempered get-togethers have drawn increasing criticism, particularly as governors have frequently taken different approaches to implementing what they agree upon.

Last month, Merkel and the governors sparred for hours before announcing unexpected plans for a five-day Easter shutdown. Merkel then dumped the plans less than 36 hours later after concluding they were unworkable and apologized to Germans.