Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to reopen all shops as part of a deal with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to ease restrictions on society.
General contact rules will continue for another month. Schools will reopen gradually this term and Bundesliga football has been given the green light to restart.
The states have agreed to take control of timing the reopening.
They will operate an “emergency brake” if there is a new surge in infections.
A limited resumption has already begun, but this easing of restrictions is far broader.
Two households will be able to meet and eat together under the easing of restrictions, and elderly people in nursing homes and facilities for the disabled will be able to have visits from one specific person.
‘Germany doing better than other countries’
“I think we can safely state that the first phase of the pandemic is behind us,” Chancellor Merkel said. “But we need to be very much aware we are still in the early phases and we’ll be in it for the long haul.”
Bavarian leader Markus Söder said Germany was doing better than many other countries because it had adopted a good strategy nationally and regionally and everyone had remained patient. The social distancing of 1.5m (5ft) and hygiene were key to keeping the infection rate low, he said.
Germany has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic a much lower figure than seen in other Western European countries including the UK, Italy, France, and Spain.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a federal public health body, reported 165 deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday and some 947 new infections.
The rate of infection has been consistently low for some time, and Mrs. Merkel said she was very pleased that the number of new, daily infections was into three digits.
What has been agreed upon?
The popular daily newspaper Bild announced on Wednesday that Germany was opening up again. And broadly that is what has been agreed.
Shops of up to 800 square metres (8,600ft) in size have already been allowed to open. All restrictions on shops will now be lifted, although masks must be worn and social distancing maintained.
Schools have already begun opening for older children; all pupils will be allowed to return to class gradually during the summer term. “Children quite rightly want to return to their normal lives,” said Mrs Merkel.
During Wednesday’s talks, state leaders agreed to take responsibility for the consequences of lifting the lockdown, which came into force on 17 March.
Germany, in common with other countries, is wary of a second surge in infections. If new infections rise to above 50 people in every 100,000 in a district over a seven-day period, then it will be up to the local authority in the affected area to reimpose restrictions.
A number of the 16 states have been less affected by the crisis, so some are more eager to ease restrictions than others.