South Africa Says Third Coronavirus Wave Has Passed Its Peak

South Africa’s government said a third wave of coronavirus infections has passed its peak, a development that could give it scope to ease a ban on alcohol sales and other restrictions.

The country recorded 14,858 new cases in the past 24 hours, down from 16,240 the day before, indicating the pandemic was “on a downward trend,” acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told reporters in Pretoria, the capital, on Friday. There were 4,998 new cases in the central Gauteng province, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, down from a peak of more than 16,000, she said.

The National Coronavirus Command Council is due to meet on July 25 to discuss whether to review prevailing curbs, including bans on alcohol sales and leisure travel in and out of Gauteng, and a night-time curfew. President Cyril Ramaphosa is due to deliver a televised address that night and will announce any changes.

Ramaphosa may also unveil a package aimed at helping businesses and individuals affected by a week of riots in Gauteng and the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. At least 330 people died in the unrest and thousands of businesses were looted.

Proposals tabled in the National Economic Development and Labor Council, a bargaining forum that includes the government, labor unions and business groups, include the reintroduction of a temporary welfare grant for those who don’t qualify for other aid. Other suggestions include tax relief and loan guarantees for businesses affected by the unrest.

Members of the cabinet will provide details of the interventions next week, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters in Pretoria, the capital on Friday.

About 120 private pharmacies were destroyed during the protests, and some 47,500 Covid-19 vaccine doses were lost, interrupting the government’s inoculation program.

The problems were being addressed and vaccinations had picked up, with more than 250,000 shots being issued daily, Kubayi said.

That rate has only been exceeded once, according to National Department of Health data. National infection rates also show the picture is mixed across provinces and the resurgence may not have peaked in some of them.

While yesterday’s total infections were lower than the day before, they were higher than the seven-day average of 12,727, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.

The test positivity rate in the week ended July 11 was 32.4%, exceeded only by the 34.6% recorded in the week ended Dec. 27, NICD data showed. The rate is seen as an indicator of overall infection rates.

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