Eamon Ryan says restrictions will start to be eased ‘very quickly’, with changes as soon as next week.
He also said most legal restrictions will be lifted well before the end of March.
The Cabinet is meeting today, ahead of NPHET considering an easing of measures tomorrow.
That's likely to be followed by a Cabinet meeting on Friday, the Taoiseach has confirmed.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has floated March 31st as a deadline to end “almost all” COVID-19 restrictions - although noted that measures such as mask-wearing and COVID passes for international travel will likely remain for longer.
In the meantime, there’s been growing optimism that measures such as the 8pm curfew for indoor events could be eased very soon.
Minister Ryan said he expects hospitality to be back ‘on a more normal footing’ by the end of January, and the lifting of other remaining restrictions will likely be done on a phased basis.
However, he indicated restrictions would likely be eased next week rather than this weekend.
For any remaining restrictions, Minister Ryan said things should get back to normal a lot sooner than March 31st.
He said: “[It] may be just certain provisions are in law until the end of March - allow them to run their course.
“But most restrictions will be removed, I expect, much, much sooner than that.”
He noted that mask-wearing is likely to remain in some form into the future - similar to how it was in Asia before the pandemic.
Also speaking ahead of today's Cabinet meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Omicron wave "thankfully doesn't appear to have been at all as impactful" on ICUs as originally feared.
He confirmed Government will meet on Friday, and then give "clarity" to the public about the current situation with restrictions.