Step 2 begins: Germany relaxes some lockdown rules

Step 2 begins: Germany relaxes some lockdown rules

Step 2 begins: Germany relaxes some lockdown rules

As of Monday, March 8, Germany entered “Step 2” of its reopening strategy. For many people, this means that coronavirus restrictions are being relaxed further. Exactly how much depends on where in the country you are.  

Contact restrictions eased and shops reopen as Germany enters phase 2 of reopening

“Phase two” has begun: from Monday, more restrictions will be relaxed in most federal states - despite the fact that cases of COVID-19 are actually increasing in many regions. 

More social contacts are now allowed, and in some places the rules are also being relaxed for shops, museums and beauty salons. Here’s an overview of what’s happening where. 

Social contacts

Angela Merkel and the state governments agreed last Wednesday that contact restrictions should be relaxed nationwide as of Monday, March 8. From now on, up to five people from two households are allowed to meet up. Children under the age of 14 do not count. This easing was already in place in some federal states. 

In Saxony-Anhalt, authorities have gone even further: the members of one household may meet with up to five people from a second household (again, not counting children under the age of 14). 


Across most federal states, bookshops, gardening centres and flower shops are now allowed to reopen their doors - with a maximum of one customer per 10 square metres of floor space. 

Whether or not other types of retail businesses are allowed to reopen depends on a region’s seven-day incidence rate (the number of new coronavirus infections per 100.000 inhabitants in the last seven days). 

If the incidence rate falls below 100, retailers are allowed to open, but by appointment only (so-called “Click & Meet”). If the incidence rate falls below 50, shops can fully reopen, but with a limited number of customers allowed inside at any one time. 

Federal states can choose whether to implement these requirements statewide or differentiated according to regions. As of Monday, Click & Meet appointments for shopping can be made in Berlin (although March 8 is a public holiday in the capital), Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. In Saarland, depending on the area, customers will be allowed into shops. 

Appointment shopping is also possible in North Rhine-Westphalia, although authorities are still unsure what to do about regions with lower incidence rates. 

In Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein, retail reopenings will be determined by local incidence rates, rather than statewide ones. In some areas, shopping without an appointment should be possible. 

The only state not to be opening any shops is Thuringia, where the incidence rate is still over 130. Only hardware stores will be able to offer appointment shopping from March 15. 


Similar regulations apply to the reopening of museums, art galleries, zoos and botanical gardens. In regions where the seven-day incidence is between 50 and 100, an appointment-only system will remain in place for visits. Where the seven-day incidence rate has fallen below 50, appointments will not be required but the number of visitors will be strictly controlled. 

In some areas, it may take a while for these institutions to organise reopenings. In Saxony, for instance, no reopenings are planned until at least March 15. 

Close-contact services

For so-called close-contact services, such as beauty salons, massage parlours and tattoo studios, the rules have also been relaxed - although exactly which businesses are covered by the definition “close contact services” varies from state to state. Both customers and service providers will have to wear medical face masks. Hairdressers have been open across Germany since March 1. 

These businesses will not reopen until March 15 in Thuringia. 


According to the federal and state governments’ resolution, up to 10 people are now allowed to do non-contact sports in the open air together, so long as the local seven-day incidence rate is below 50. If it’s between 50 and 100, up to five people from two households can practice sports together outside. Children up to 14 years of age can do sports outside in groups of up to 20. 

These rules are being observed in most federal states, but there are some exceptions. In Hesse, people can also book individual appointments in gyms. In Berlin, the age limit has been lowered to 12. In Thuringia, the necessary incidence rate has not yet been reached. 

Driving lessons

If you’re learning to drive in Germany, you’ll be glad to hear that driving lessons are allowed to resume nationwide. Learner drivers will have to get themselves tested for coronavirus (e.g. using a rapid test) on the same day as their lesson to allow it to go ahead. The same rules are in place for flying lessons. 

The next reopening steps

After these changes, a fourth reopening step is currently scheduled for March 22 (at the earliest). This is also contingent on there being no significant worsening of the coronavirus incidence rate over the next 14 days. 

If this happens, outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants would be allowed to resume; theatres, concert halls, opera houses and cinemas would be allowed to reopen; and restrictions would be further lifted for non-contact sports indoors and contact sports outdoors. 

germany's reopening strategy



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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