Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany’s goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus has been achieved, so all shops can be reopened as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Bundesliga football has been given the green light to resume and schools will gradually reopen in the summer term.
Germany’s 16 federal states, under an agreement with the government, will take control of timing the reopening.
They will operate an “emergency brake” if there is a new surge in infections.
General contact rules involving will continue for another month. A limited resumption has already begun, but this easing of restrictions is far broader.
Two households will be able to meet and eat together, and elderly people in nursing homes and facilities for the disabled will be able to have visits from one specific person.
Bavaria in the south plans to reopen restaurants on 18 May while Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north plans to do that this Saturday.
Reopening restaurants and hotels is seen as a particular risk because it will heighten the number of people travelling across Germany and raising infection rates. Large public events will remain banned.
The German football league, the Bundesliga, will resume on 15 May, and will be played behind closed doors amid strict hygiene measures. A two-week quarantine is expected to be put in place for the players, in the form of a type of training camp.
Merkel warned, “we need to be very much aware we are still in the early phases and we’ll be in it for the long haul.”
Not everyone has been happy with the speed of reopening. Baden-Württemberg state premier Winfried Kretschmann accused “a whole row of colleagues of rushing ahead with their own openings”.
Germany has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic.