South Africa Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions, Mulls Vaccine Passports

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced in a televised address that South Africa would ease COVID-19 restrictions and shorten its curfew nationwide from Monday.

According to the president, authorities will extend alcohol store hours and relax restrictions introduced in June to combat the third wave of Delta-related illnesses.

“While the third wave is not yet over, we have seen a sustained decline in infections across the country over the last few weeks,” Ramaphosa said.

Authorities reported 3,961 new cases on Sunday, compared with a peak of about 26,500 per day in early July.

The announcement will bring the country down one level in its five-tier system of restrictions, where five is the highest, to an ‘adjusted level 2’.

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The curfew is still scheduled to last until 4 in the morning, but will begin an hour later at 11 p.m. The sale of alcohol will be allowed from Monday through Friday. The sale of alcohol was banned in June, but was allowed Monday through Thursday in July.

The president said there was enough vaccine to inoculate everyone, but only 7 million people out of over 60 million in the country were fully protected.

South Africa is one of the worst-hit countries on the continent due to the high number of reported cases and deaths. Health insurers cited vaccine hesitancy as a key reason for the slow pace of the vaccination campaign.

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According to Ramaphosa, the country is dedicated to increasing the number of people getting the vaccination, focusing on the elderly and other vulnerable individuals.

He also stated that the country was looking at vaccine passports and would share more information about these shortly.

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