BERLIN (REUTERS) - Germany's Bundesliga is set to become the first of Europe's top soccer leagues to get under way following the novel coronavirus stoppage after the government said on Wednesday (May 6) that it could re-start in the second half of May.
The government said the Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga could restart without spectators, adding that the German soccer league (DFL) would decide on the exact dates.
Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement, which had been widely expected, as part of measures to begin easing the country's lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the virus.
The DFL is due to hold an assembly with its 36 member clubs on Thursday followed by a news conference in which more details are expected to be given.
A government statement also said teams would have to go into quarantined training camps ahead of the restart.
The league has been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Officials from the 16 states held a teleconference with Merkel on Wednesday to discuss easing the country's lockdown measures.
The coronavirus outbreak has brought football to a standstill around the world and Germany's progress is likely to be closely watched by other leagues.
Bayern Munich, chasing an eighth successive title, currently lead the table with 55 points from 25 games, four ahead of Borussia Dortmund with RB Leipzig third on 50.
At the bottom, Werder Bremen and Paderborn are in the drop zone with Fortuna Duesseldorf in 16th, which is the relegation/promotion playoff spot.
Germany's professional teams have been training since mid-April, divided into small groups and under strict conditions, including extensive testing of all players and coaching staff.
On Monday, the DFL said it had registered 10 positive cases in a blanket test of 1,724 players and staff at its 36 first and second division clubs.
Meanwhile, Germany captain Manuel Neuer says Bundesliga footballers have an "enormous responsibility" if the league resumes.
"People will be looking at us from other European countries, indeed all over the world," Neuer told Frankfurt-based newspaper FAZ.
"This is an enormous responsibility for us, which we must be aware of with every fibre. It is now up to us."
Neuer, captain and goalkeeper of defending champions Bayern Munich, sees the medical concept of the DFL as the "best possible" way forward.
"Now it is up to each individual at each club to bring this concept to life in a disciplined manner."
He said the players must ensure the league returns successfully. "We are particularly responsible for tens of thousands of jobs in diverse industries that live with, and through, football," he added. "And we are responsible for all those fans for whom football is a big part of their lives."
Bayern were four points clear - and chasing an eighth league title - when the Bundesliga halted on March 13.