Omicron-fueled fourth wave of Covid has passed, South Africa says as it eases restrictions | Coronavirus
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South Africa lifted the nighttime curfew on the movement of people with immediate effect, believing that the country has passed the peak of its fourth wave of coronavirus driven by the Omicron variant.
While the head of the World Health Organization made an optimistic note about the fight against the pandemic in 2022, the government in Pretoria has lifted the curfew from midnight to 4 a.m. depending on the trajectory of the pandemic, immunization levels and available capacity in the health sector, the government said on Thursday.
“All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave nationally,” said a statement from a special cabinet meeting held earlier Thursday.
“Although the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, hospitalization rates have been lower than in previous waves,” the cabinet statement said.
Data from the South African Department of Health showed a weekly decrease of 29.7% in new cases detected during the week ending December 25, the government said. Hospital admissions fell in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces.
South Africa, with nearly 3.5 million infections and 91,000 deaths, was Africa’s worst-hit country during the pandemic on both counts, and it is here that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first detected last month.
The country is at the lowest of its five-step Covid-19 alert levels.
In addition to lifting restrictions on public travel, the government has also decided that liquor stores with licenses to operate beyond 11 p.m. could revert to full licensing conditions, a welcome boon for traders and businesses hit hard by the pandemic and seeking to recover during the holiday season.
However, public gatherings are limited to 1,000 people indoors and 2,000 people outdoors. Wearing a mask in public places also remains compulsory, as offenses are considered a criminal offense.
The more optimistic note after two years of a global pandemic was echoed by the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said on Linkedin that the world had the “tools to end this calamity”.
“After two years, we are now familiar with this virus,” he wrote. “We know the proven measures to control transmission: wearing masks, avoiding crowds, maintaining physical distance, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, opening windows for ventilation, testing and contact tracing. We know how to treat the disease it causes and how to improve the chances of survival for people with severe disease. With all of these learnings and abilities, the opportunity to reverse this pandemic for good is within our grasp. “
In Israel a fourth vaccine for vulnerable people has been approved, becoming one of the first countries to do so, amid an increase in Covid in cases driven by the Omicron variant.
Department of Health Director General Nachman Ash said: “I have done this in light of studies that show the benefits of the vaccine, including the fourth vaccine, for this population, and in light of the fear that she will be more vulnerable in this Omicron epidemic. “
Israeli health officials reported more than 4,000 new cases on Thursday, a record not seen since September. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Israel was in “a fifth wave” with most cases likely being Omicron-related.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel, which was one of the first countries in the world to offer a public recall, “would lead the way” by offering a fourth jab. Booster injections were given to 4.2 million people out of a population of 9.4 million Israelis.
Chile last week announced it would offer a fourth injection to those at risk from February. Health officials in the UK and Germany have also said they are considering fourth doses.
Also on Thursday, an Israeli El Al flight from Belgium landed in Tel Aviv carrying a shipment of Pfizer’s anti-Covid pill, Paxlovid, which Bennett hailed as an “important addition to the arsenal in the war on pandemic ”.
“Thanks to our swift action, the drugs have arrived in Israel quickly and will help us get past the peak of the next Omicron wave,” he said.
Ran Balicer, chairman of Israel’s National Covid-19 Expert Group, said Pfizer’s drugs could “dramatically reduce the risk of serious illness, potentially reducing the overall hospital burden.” He said drugs were essential, “in addition to vaccines and masks”.
In trials, the treatment has been shown to reduce Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths by 88% in people at risk. Oral treatments block the virus’s ability to replicate and should resist variants, experts say.
The United States paid $ 5.3 billion for 10 million cures of Pfizer’s new treatment, as well as $ 2.2 billion for the treatment of rival Merck, whose pill appears to be less effective.
The European Union medicines regulator has also authorized member states to use Pfizer’s Covid medicines before formal approval as an emergency measure.
Ash approved the recall after Israel’s Sheba Medical Center launched a clinical trial on Monday, giving 150 staff members a fourth shot to test the benefits of a wider nationwide rollout of additional doses.
He also announced new health regulations, requiring people to wear masks during outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people.
Israeli health officials have avoided the sweeping social distancing guidelines and shutdowns seen at the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the United States set a new world record for daily infections after reporting 488,000 cases as the Omicron variant spreads across the country, according to a New York Times database. However, even that figure is likely a serious underestimate of the actual number of positive cases, due to the growing popularity of home testing and those infected but asymptomatic.
New Year’s Eve gatherings interrupted
A New Year devoid of mass celebrations awaits millions around the world as the number of new daily Covid cases worldwide crosses one million for the first time, according to an AFP tally on Thursday, with more than 7.3 million in the past seven days.
From Greece to Mexico, Barcelona to Bali and across Europe, authorities have canceled or reduced public gatherings, closing or imposing curfews at nightclubs. Only South Africa, the first country to report the Omicron variant, opposed the trend.
In France, wearing a mask outside will be compulsory in the streets of Paris from Friday for all people over 11 years old. Nightclubs were closed until January.
In Spain, public festivities have been canceled in most regions and in larger cities except Madrid, where a stripped-down rally is planned with a crowd limited to 7,000 compared to 18,000 in 2019.
Britain’s National Health Service has said it will start opening temporary field hospitals to contain a possible patient overflow in England, where the government has not placed restrictions on New Years festivities. “Given the high standard. of Covid-19 infections and increased hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing, “said national medical director Stephen Powis.
Indonesia, which has reported more than 4.2 million cases, has warned that foreign travelers could be deported from the resort island of Bali if caught breaking Covid rules that ban carnivals, fireworks and gatherings of more than 50 people. “Prepare to be deported,” Bali Immigration Bureau chief Jamaruli Manihuruk said.
Mexico City has canceled its massive New Year’s celebrations as a preventive measure after an increase in cases.
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