But patience is running thin in the country over a sluggish vaccine rollout, a delayed start to mass rapid testing and higher infection numbers despite months of shutdowns, with support for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party at its lowest level for a year.
The move drew criticism from all sides, with businesses lamenting the extended lockdown and medical experts saying the new measures were not tough enough to prevent the exponential spread of more infectious variants of the virus.
"We want to avoid our health system becoming overburdened", Merkel said.
Opposition politicians on Wednesday called for a motion of no confidence in parliament, but Merkel insisted she had the full backing of her right-left coalition government.
Under the new restrictions, social gatherings will be limited between April 1-5, meaning no more than five adults from two households can meet at once.
"The idea of an Easter shutdown was drafted with the best of intentions".
Nearly all shops will be closed during the five days, and religious services will be moved online over Easter. "The whole process has caused additional uncertainty, for which I ask all citizens to forgive me".
Merkel said that, even without the Easter shutdown, decisions she has taken with the state governors offer a "framework" to beat back the new wave of coronavirus infections.
Germany is taking unprecedented measures over the Easter weekend.
Mrs Merkel appears to be struggling to keep the country together.
"It's hard for longer than we thought", said Merkel.
Merkel said that the situation is that we are facing a new virus of the same kind but with very different characteristics namely, more deadly, more infectious, and infectious for longer. Under the current rules, areas exceeding that infection rate over a seven-day period will not be subject to further reopenings.
The leaders also urged churches to hold services online over Easter, leading to some consternation within Merkel's CDU-CSU conservative alliance.
Merkel reiterated an urgent appeal for citizens to avoid unnecessary domestic and worldwide travel.
The HDE association of retailers said 54% of fashion stores faced the danger of insolvency after 100 days of lockdown.
Coronavirus infections have been surging across Europe in recent weeks as countries scramble to vaccinate their populations despite delays in rolling out jabs.
European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its United Kingdom contract in full while falling short on its supplies to the EU.
The EU is now considering an export ban targeting AstraZeneca production in Europe.
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