South Africa Says Third Coronavirus Wave Has Passed Its Peak

South Africa’s government said a third wave of coronavirus infections has passed its peak, a development that could give it scope to ease a ban on alcohol sales and other restrictions.

The country recored 14,858 new cases in the past 24 hours, down from 16,240 the day before, indicating the pandemic was “on a downward trend,” acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told reporters in Pretoria, the capital, on Friday. There were 4,998 new cases in the central Gauteng province, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, down from a peak of more than 16,000, she said.

The National Coronavirus Command Council is due to meet on July 25 to discuss whether to review prevailing curbs, including bans on alcohol sales and leisure travel in and out of Gauteng, and a night-time curfew. President Cyril Ramaphosa will likely communicate any changes in a televised address that night.

Ramaphosa may also unveil a package aimed at helping businesses and individuals affected by a week of riots in Gauteng and the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. At least 337 people died in the unrest and thousands of businesses were looted.

Proposals tabled in the National Economic Development and Labor Council, a bargaining forum that includes the government, labor unions and business groups, include the reintroduction of a temporary welfare grant for those who don’t qualify for other aid. Other suggestions include tax relief and loan guarantees for businesses affected by the unrest.

About 120 private pharmacies were destroyed during the protests, and some 47,500 Covid-19 vaccine doses were lost, interrupting the government’s inoculation program.

The problems were being addressed and vaccinations had picked up, with more than 250,000 shots being issued daily, Kubayi said.

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