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Cabinet lifts Covid-19 curfew with immediate effect

Size of indoor gatherings increased ahead of New Year's Eve

Patrons enjoy a drink in a pub in Melville, Johannesburg. File photo.
Patrons enjoy a drink in a pub in Melville, Johannesburg. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

SA's curfew has been lifted with immediate effect after a special cabinet meeting on Thursday.

But the risk of Covid-19 infections, driven by the Omicron variant, remains high and the wearing of face masks remains mandatory with the government urging people to continue observing basic health protocols.

“Based on the trajectory of the pandemic, the levels of vaccination in the country and the available capacity within the health sector,” the cabinet decided to make these changes to adjusted alert level 1 with immediate effect:

  • The curfew is lifted. There will therefore be no restrictions on the hours of movement of people.
  • Gatherings are restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors and no more than 2,000 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used. All other restrictions remain in place.

“The risk of increase in infections is still high given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Government therefore calls on all organisers of these gatherings to ensure that all health protocols are observed at all times and that all attendees are encouraged to be vaccinated,” the presidency said in a statement.

Alcohol establishments that have licences to operate beyond 11pm will revert to full licence conditions.

Changes to the alert level 1 regulations were approved by the cabinet after meetings of the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) and the president’s co-ordinating council (PCC), which received updates on the management of the fourth wave.

“The information gathered through the system used by the department of health has reported a 29.7% decrease in the number of new cases detected in the week ending December 25 [89,781], compared to the number of new cases detected in the previous week [127,753].

“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level.”

Cases had declined in all provinces except the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there have been lower rates of hospitalisation than in previous waves. This means that the country has a spare capacity for admission of patients even for routine health services. There is a marginal increase in the number of deaths in all the provinces,” read the statement.

The NCCC would continue to closely monitor the situation and, if needed, make further adjustments as necessary, particularly if pressure on health facilities increased.

“Vaccination remains the best defence against severe illness, hospitalisation and death from Covid-19. All people in SA who have not yet done so are encouraged to be vaccinated as soon as possible. This includes people who are eligible for booster shots.”

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