Zimbabwe’s giant southern neighbour’s government is easing several Covid-19 lockdown measures under an Adjusted Alert Level 1, the South African Presidency announced in a statement on Thursday evening.
The changes were based on the trajectory of the pandemic, the levels of vaccination in the country and the available capacity within the health sector.
“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level,” the Presidency said.
Therefore, the Cabinet has approved three significant changes to lockdown measures, with immediate effect.
Firstly, the curfew has been lifted, which means there will be no restrictions on the hours of movement of people.
Secondly, indoor gatherings will be allowed for up to 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.
Lastly, establishments that sell alcohol with licences to operate beyond 23:00 will revert to full licence conditions.
All other restrictions remain in place, including the mandatory wearing of a mask in a public place.
The changes come after meetings of the National Coronavirus Command Council and the President’s Coordinating Council, in which they were provided with updates on the management of the fourth Covid-19 wave in South Africa.
“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 25 December 2021 (89,781), compared to the number of new cases detected in the previous week (127,753),” the Presidency explained.
“Cases declined in all provinces except the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, which recorded increases of 14% and 18%, respectively.”
“There has been a decline in hospital admissions in all provinces except the Western Cape,” it added.
“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has 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.”
The increase in deaths in all provinces has been “marginal”.
However, the Presidency warned the risk of an increase in infections was still high given the 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.
“The NCCC will continue to monitor the situation closely and will make further adjustments as necessary, particularly if pressure on health facilities increases.”
“South Africans are urged to continue observing basic health protocols to prevent the transmission of the virus,” it added.
The government also called on South Africans to get vaccinated, as it remained the “best defence against severe illness, hospitalisation and death from Covid-19”.
Furthermore, it urged parents to support their children aged 12 years and older to vaccinate before schools open.
“This will avoid learners losing school time as a result of testing positive or as a result of contact with people infected with Covid-19,” the Presidency said.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner and is home to Implats the majority shareholder of Zimbabwe’s biggest mine, ZIMPLATS. In Zimbabwe curfew kicks in at 21:00hrs until 05:00 am daily.