South Africa has lifted a night-time curfew, as government officials said the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
A government statement said that despite the omicron mutant’s high transmissibility, it caused lower rates of hospitalizations than previous waves.
He added that there had been a “slight increase” in the number of deaths.
The new mutation – which was first reported by South Africa last month – is spreading rapidly elsewhere in the world, leading to widespread restrictions in several countries.
The World Health Organization has warned of a “tsunami” of infections due to the outbreak of the delta and omicron mutations that can overwhelm health systems.
But in South Africa, the government announced on Thursday that some lockdown rules had been relaxed.
A statement issued after a special cabinet meeting said cases and hospitalization rates had fallen in almost all provinces across the country.
In the week ending December 25, 2021, the number of confirmed infections was 89,781 – down from 127,753 the previous week.
The announced changes include lifting restrictions on movement between midnight and four in the morning. Businesses will also be allowed to sell alcohol under normal licensing rules, rather than closing at the eleventh hour.
Curfew rules have been implemented from late at night to the early hours of the morning to varying degrees since the declaration of a state of national disaster in late March 2020.
And the country’s health system still has “excess capacity to accept patients even for routine health services” despite the Omicron wave.
People continue to be urged to receive the vaccine and follow public health protocols, including the mandatory wearing of a face mask.
Gatherings are also still limited to a maximum of 1,000 people indoors, and 2,000 people outdoors, and at 50% of the space’s capacity, with the aim of respecting the rules of social distancing.
Officials said the National Corona Virus Control Council will monitor the situation and make appropriate adjustments if necessary or if pressure increases on hospitals.
South Africa has recorded nearly 3.5 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 90,000 deaths since the start of the epidemic.
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