German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday dropped plans to impose a tougher lockdown during the Easter holidays.
Leaders at a meeting on Monday agreed to close all shops from April 1 to 5, with only grocers allowed to open on Saturday, April 3.
But Ms Merkel overturned the plan after criticism over a lack of consultation and the logistics of the shutdown. She apologised after admitting the decision was an error.
“The idea of an Easter shutdown was drawn up with the best intentions, because we must urgently manage to slow and reverse the third wave of the pandemic,” she said.
“However, the idea was a mistake – there were good reasons for it but it could not be implemented well enough in this short time.
“This mistake is my mistake alone. I deeply regret this and ask all citizens for forgiveness.”
Infection numbers in Germany are rising as the more contagious variant of the virus first detected in Britain is now the dominant strain.
Germany on Wednesday reported 15,815 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours – a week ago there were 13,435. The daily death toll rose by 248 to take the overall tally of fatalities to 75,212.
A crisis meeting on Wednesday came after extensive talks that produced no new policies to contain the disease as a third wave of infections grips Europe’s largest economy.
The Easter lockdown was the only initiative after more than 11 hours of discussions between Ms Merkel and state leaders that ran into the early hours on Tuesday.
Germany is struggling to lay out a clear plan in the face of a surge in Covid-19 cases and a sluggish vaccination campaign.
The chancellor this week extended lockdown, effectively in place for four months, until April 18, although the measures are mild compared with other countries.
Restrictions include partial closure of non-essential shops and a shutdown of hotels, restaurants, gyms and cultural venues.