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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

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

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