Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany did not act quickly enough last autumn to prevent a second surge in coronavirus infections.
“We didn’t shut down public life early enough or systematically enough amid signs of a second wave and warnings from various scientists,” she told legislators on Thursday.
Mrs Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed late on Wednesday to extend the current lockdown, which was due to expire on Sunday, until at least March 7.
Schools and hairdressers will be able to open earlier, albeit with strict hygiene measures.
Mrs Merkel defended a decision to set a target of pushing the number of new weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants below 35 before the lockdown is eased further.
“The virus doesn’t follow dates, the virus follows infection numbers,” she said.
Germany’s disease control agency said there were just over 64 cases per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide in the past week.
The Robert Koch Institute said there were 10,237 new cases and 666 deaths in the past day, taking the total to 2.31 million, including 63,635 deaths.