South Africa says national peak of Omicron wave may have passed

A woman being vaccinated in South Africa (AP)
A woman being vaccinated in South Africa (AP)

South Africa may have passed the peak of its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections sparked by the arrival of the Omicron variant, its government has said.

Officials said the country’s midnight to 4am curfew could be lifted based on the trajectory of the pandemic, healthcare capacity and vaccination levels.

"All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level," a government statement issued on Thursday said.

“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalisation than in previous waves.”

Overnight curfews had been in place with varying levels of severity since March 2020.

The government also allowed licensed alcohol shops to operate beyond 11pm in line with their normal licence conditions.

South Africa is currently at the lowest of its five-stage Covid-19 alert levels. It had been one of the first countries in the world to detect the new highly-infectious Omicron variant.

Data from the Department of Health showed a 29.7% decrease in the number of new cases detected in the week ending December 25 compared to the number of cases found in the previous week.

South Africa has recorded almost 3.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 90,000 deaths during the pandemic as a whole, with its Covid deaths the highest in Africa.

However, despite the curfew relaxation, the government said gatherings will be restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors, and no more than 2,000 people outdoors.

Wearing a mask in public spaces also remains compulsory.

Officials said the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will monitor the situation and make adjustments if necessary, particularly if hospital pressure increases.