A lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party resigned on Monday amid growing criticism for his role in controversial mask procurement deals.

In a statement, Nikolas Loebel said he has submitted his resignation as a lawmaker with immediate effect in order to avert further damage to his party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The 34-years-old lawmaker had admitted last week that his company received nearly €250,000 ($297,000) in commissions to help local authorities purchase face masks.

The scandal put Christian Democrats into a difficult situation ahead of regional elections in the federal states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate on Sunday.

CDU leader Armin Laschet sharply criticized Loebel on Sunday and asked for his immediate resignation.

“During this crisis we are facing, anyone who as a lawmaker tries to earn money for himself, must leave the parliament immediately,” he said in an interview with the Suedkurier newspaper.

The German government had introduced stricter lockdown measures in January, requiring all citizens to wear medical masks (N95, FFP2 or surgical masks) on public transport and in shops to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Strict measures helped the government bring the daily case count below 12,000 over the past two weeks, but the death toll remains high, according to the latest figures.

Currently, the country’s seven-day incidence rate is 68 new cases per 100,000 people, while the government’s goal has been to reduce this to 50 per 100,000 population.

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