South Africa Eases Virus Curbs After Third Infection Wave Ends
(Bloomberg) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa relaxed coronavirus restrictions after infections abated and inoculations increased, scrapping almost all curbs on alcohol sales and easing limits on the size of public gatherings.
The move to virus alert level 1 from level 2 will help shore up an economy that’s grappling with record-high unemployment and bruised investor confidence. It will also make it easier for political parties to campaign for municipal elections scheduled for Nov. 1.
The changes were made possible by the declining trends in infections, although health protocols such as the wearing of masks still needed to be observed to prevent another upsurge, Ramaphosa said Thursday in a televised speech.
Among the restrictions being eased are:
- Retail sales of alcohol, which were previously confined to week days, will now be allowed during normal trading hours.
- Restaurants and bars will be allowed to remain open until 11 p.m. one hour later than before.
- A curfew will begin at midnight, an hour later than before, and remain in place until 4 a.m.
- The number of people permitted at public gatherings will increase to a maximum of 750 people indoors, three times the previous limit, and 2,500 outdoors, up from 500 before.
The country exited a third wave of infections earlier this week, with 1,678 new cases and 101 deaths reported on Thursday, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. The test positivity rate has dropped to 4.1%, from a peak of more than 30%.
Ramaphosa reiterated a call to South Africans to get vaccinated and urged companies to facilitate the process for their staff.
“Our vaccination program is far too slow,” and there will be a countrywide drive to increase vaccination over weekends to cater for those who can’t get shots during working hours, he said.
South Africa has had 2.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases so far and 87,626 of those who’ve been diagnosed with the disease have died, although excess death numbers indicate the true toll may be much higher. About 17.5 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in the country of 60 million people.
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