The German government backed on Tuesday plans for the rapid relaxation of coronavirus rules for the fully vaccinated and those who have recovered with Chancellor Angela Merkel expressing cautious optimism about the end of the pandemic.
There was "light at the end of the tunnel" Merkel told an online meeting of parliamentary members from her conservative political bloc. She pointed to falling cases and an easing of pressure on intensive care units, party officials told dpa.
Tuesday's cabinet decision means that the total of about 10 million people who are either fully vaccinated or recovered could be granted freedom from several lockdown measures as early as Saturday.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht is expected to introduce draft legislation into parliament on Thursday with lawmakers predicted to sign off on the new regulations by Friday.
Lambrecht said the legislation represented "an important step towards normality," Lambrecht said.
If everything is decided as expected, the relaxations could apply as early as this weekend, she said.
The government's plans come amid tentative signs that the worst of the pandemic could be over for Germany with the number of new coronavirus cases tending down over the last week following a prolonged lockdown.
After a shambolic start, the pace of vaccinations has also been accelerating as more vaccine supplies have arrived in the nation and the authorities have expanded the means of people accessing a dose.
Still, only about 8 per cent of the German population of 84 million are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Several of Germany's 16 states have already launched similar moves to offer freedom for the pandemic rules to the fully vaccinated and the recovered.
However, also speaking to lawmakers at Tuesday's meeting, Ralph Brinkhaus, a parliamentary leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian-based Christian Social Union, played down the prospects of early moves for the reopening of restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels.
While he said the progress on vaccinations had been "gratifying," the situation would have to be reviewed in May and June with an eye towards what the science was saying.