South Africa has lifted a nightime curfew on people’s movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth coronavirus wave driven by the Omicron variant.
As the head of the World Health Organization sounded an optimistic note about beating the pandemic in 2022, the government in Pretoria removed the midnight-to-4am curfew based on the trajectory of the pandemic, vaccination levels and available capacity in the health sector, the government said on Thursday.
“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level,” a statement from a special cabinet meeting held earlier on Thursday said.
“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalisation than in previous waves,” the cabinet statement said.
Data from South Africa’s health department showed a 29.7% weekly decrease in new cases detected in the week ending 25 December, the government said. Hospital admissions have declined in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces.
South Africa, with close to 3.5 million infections and 91,000 deaths, has been the worst-hit country in Africa during the pandemic on both counts, and was where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first detected last month.
The more optimistic note after two years of the global pandemic was echoed by the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said on Linkedin that the world had the “tools to end this calamity”.
“After two years, we now know this virus well,” he wrote. “We know the proven measures to control transmission: mask use, avoiding crowds, maintaining physical distancing, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, opening windows for ventilation, testing and contact tracing. We know how to treat the disease it causes and improve the chances of survival for people suffering serious illness. With all these learnings and capacities, the opportunity to turn this pandemic around for good is in our grasp.”
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