Dec 31, 2021 - World

South Africa eases COVID restrictions, says Omicron peak has passed

South Africa.
A health worker wearing personal protective equipment disinfects her hands at a temporary COVID-19 testing station in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. Photo: Emmanuel Croset/AFP via Getty Images

The South African government lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions Thursday, including a midnight to 4am curfew, with officials saying the country has "passed the peak of the fourth wave" driven by the Omicron variant.

Why it matters: South Africa alerted the world to the Omicron variant in November and has been the worst-hit country in Africa, per Reuters.

What he's saying: Mondli Gungubele, the minister in the presidency, said in a statement Thursday that the country lifted its restrictions "based on the trajectory of the pandemic, the levels of vaccination in the country and the available capacity within the health sector."

Yes, but: South African residents are still mandated to wear face masks in public, and gatherings are restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors.

Details: There was a 29.7% decrease in the number of new cases detected in the week ending Dec. 25, compared with the number of new cases detected the previous week, according to data from the Department of Health.

  • Throughout the pandemic, South Africa has reported nearly 3.5 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 91,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Go deeper