German cabinet passes decree to ease COVID-19 curbs for vaccinated

FILE PHOTO: Residents of Cologne's Chorweiler district wait in line to get vaccinated at a mobile vaccination centre, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Cologne, Germany, May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's cabinet agreed on Tuesday to ease restrictions on people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said, in the first step towards restoring the rights of citizens.

Lambrecht said the curbs, introduced to contain infections and prevent the health system from becoming overburdened, must be relaxed once they can no longer be justified.

"If the risk of virus transmission is greatly reduced in fully vaccinated and recovered people, this must be taken into account in the measures. We have now implemented this," she said.

Around 8% of Germany's population has received two doses of the vaccine and more than 28% a first. With the pace of vaccinations picking up and infections falling, the government hopes that lockdown measures in place since November and tightened since then will be lifted soon.

The decree, which must now be approved by the lower and upper house of parliament, could come into effect at the weekend, Lambrecht said.

Under the changes, those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will no longer have to have a negative test to go shopping, to the hairdresser or visit tourist attractions. They will also be exempt from a night-time curfew and be able to meet in private without restrictions.

However, vaccinated people will still be required to wear face masks and stick to social distancing rules.

Giving special freedoms to the vaccinated is a thorny issue, with some fearing it could lead to social tensions at a time when not everyone has had the opportunity to get vaccinated, as well as making it harder for regions to enforce the curbs.

But others say relaxing restrictions could act as an incentive to get vaccinated. Some 72% of Germans say they want to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest survey by the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

(Writing by Riham Alkousaa and Caroline Copley; Editing by Madeline Chambers)

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