The South African government has lifted most restrictions in the country as officials declare the country “may have passed the peak of the fourth wave.”
Restrictions are being removed “[b]ased on the trajectory of the pandemic, the levels of vaccination in the country and the available capacity within the health sector,” according to a government statement from Mondli Gungubele, South Africa’s minister in the presidency.
“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level,” the statement reads, citing a decrease in new cases and hospitalizations in most provinces.
The country’s Department of Health reported a 29.7 decrease in the number of new cases detected in the week ending Dec. 25, compared to the number of cases found in the previous week, at 127,753.
The government will remove a curfew that applied from midnight to 4 a.m. and ease limits on gatherings.
“Gatherings are restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors and no more than 2,000 people outdoors,” a statement from the special cabinet meeting held earlier on Thursday said.
“Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 percent of the capacity of the venue may be used. All other restrictions remain in place.”
The government also ruled that alcohol shops with licenses to operate beyond 11 p.m. are now allowed to return to full license conditions.
Masks remain mandatory in public spaces, and people can be charged with a criminal offense if they fail to wear a mask when required.
South Africa is now at its lowest COVID-19 alert level, out of five levels.
South Africa announced it had detected a new variant in late November, after which the World Health Organization named it “Omicron.”
Dutch scientists confirmed the Omicron variant had been circulating in the Netherlands prior to its detection in South Africa on Nov. 24. Specifically, two patient test samples from Nov. 19 and 23 taken in the Netherlands were found to contain the variant, according to the Netherlands’ RIVM health institute.
Although the new variant has spread quickly and widely across the world, it has produced mild symptoms for the most part, and few deaths linked to the Omicron variant have been reported.
“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalization than in previous waves,” according to South Africa’s government.