Germany has managed to contain coronavirus more effectively than other European countries, partly thanks to a comprehensive testing regime that allowed authorities to identify and isolate those infected with the virus at an early stage. It has the capacity to run 650,000 tests a week.

The government said the lockdown measures had helped to slow the spread of the virus in Germany. “But at the same time we’ve learnt that without restrictions, the speed of infection increases very quickly,” it said. “For that reason, we must do everything we can to safeguard the successes of the last few weeks.”

Ms Merkel said restrictions on social life introduced on March 22, when gatherings of more than two people were banned, would stay in force until at least May 3. All big public events such as fairs and festivals will be forbidden until the end of August, and a ban on religious services has been extended. Restaurants, bars and hotels will also remain closed. Leaders would reconvene on April 30 to evaluate what to do after May 3.