Almost all shops will be closed and religious services moved online during the five-day period amid surging virus rates but critics say the German government is operating with “tunnel vision.”
Germany's decision to extend the coronavirus lockdown and close stores over Easter could drive more businesses to bankruptcy and be counterproductive by encouraging people to flock to the shops beforehand, lobby groups have said.
The HDE association of retailers said 54 percent of fashion stores faced the danger of insolvency after 100 days of lockdown.
"After one year with coronavirus, the situation for many retailers is desperate. There is no longer any hope of surviving this crisis economically," its president, Stefan Genth, said.
After talks that ran into the early hours of Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would extend its lockdown until April 18 and urged citizens to stay home and reduce contacts as much as possible for five days from April 1.
Germany's new infections rose by 7,485 on Tuesday to 2.674 million, while another 250 deaths took its toll to 74,964. The number of cases per 100,000 in the last seven days rose to 108 from 107 on Monday.
Genth said the government was operating with "tunnel vision" by only focusing on the number of cases per 100,000 people, rather than other metrics and the many steps taken by retailers to limit the risk of infection while shopping.
Local tourism bans
The German tourism association said it was disappointed with the new decisions, saying it was incomprehensible for vacations to the Mediterranean to be permitted while self-catered domestic trips were barred.
"You can't really justify that seriously anymore," the association's deputy manager, Dirk Dunkelberg, told SWR radio, adding that many businesses in the industry would not survive the extended lockdown.
The Association of the German Motor Trade (ZDK) also attacked the extension and tightening of the lockdown and warned of a wave of bankruptcies.
"If car dealerships contribute practically nothing to infections, how is their closure supposed to help contain the virus?" ZDK president Juergen Karpinski asked the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.
Vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ZDF it was "right to use the period of Easter to pull on the brakes ".
But patience is running thin in Germany 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.
Europe's top economy will elect a new government in September, as Merkel is retiring after 16 years in power.
Der Spiegel news magazine called the government's repeated focus on tweaking shutdowns a "scandal", claiming it had "completely the wrong priorities" and should instead focus on improving its vaccination campaign and test strategy.
"This three-week lockdown rhythm confirms the suspicion that the federal government and states are simply trying to play a catch up game they have already lost," the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said.
Dietmar Bartsch, a leading MP from the far-left opposition party Die Linke, said on Tuesday the chancellor and her ministers "should apologise to citizens" for the missteps.