German authorities will begin discussions next week on easing some of the coronavirus restrictions, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced on Friday.

Delivering a speech at the Federal Council (Bundesrat), Scholz said the government’s strict anti-coronavirus measures have been effective so far, and prevented hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“The scientific forecasts show us that the peak of the wave is in sight,” he said, referring to the recent studies of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which expects numbers to peak in two weeks and begin do decline afterwards.

“This gives us an opportunity to look at the first opening steps at our planned meeting with the federal states next week,” Scholz said, adding that further openings could be possible in the spring, depending on the pandemic conditions.

On Friday, health authorities reported 240,172 new COVID-19 infections, 1,759 hospitalizations and 226 coronavirus-related deaths across the country.

Despite a surge in new infections in recent weeks, most of the cases have been mild so far, not requiring hospitalization.

Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were receiving treatment in intensive care units, and around 3,000 beds were free, as of Friday.

Germany is among the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Western Europe, and it has recorded one of the highest caseloads in the region.

The country of 83 million has reported more than 12 million infections and nearly 200,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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