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COVID: South Africa loosens restrictions amid falling cases

March 23, 2022

South Africa has eased rules on travel to the country, where the omicron variant was first identified in November. Meanwhile, China's most-populous city, Shanghai, reports record COVID-19 cases. Follow DW for the latest.

Picture of Cyril Ramaphosa at a press conference in 2021
In a televised speech, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that South Africa 'learning to live with the virus in our presence.'Image: Janine Schmitz/ photothek/picture alliance

South Africa has eased COVID-19 curbs as cases continue to fall in the country, which first identified the omicron variant in November.

The relaxed restrictions, which come into effect on Wednesday, mean that wearing masks outdoors is no longer mandatory and jabbed travelers are now able to enter the country without having to provide a negative PCR test.

Health experts said the country had entered a period of low transmission following a significant drop in coronavirus-related deaths and serious illnesses in recent weeks.

In a televised speech on Tuesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa was changing the way it is handling the pandemic and "learning to live with the virus in our presence."

"It means that we are opening our economy still further and that we are resuming many of the social and cultural activities that we have missed over the last two years,'' the president added.

The new rules also include allowing sports stadiums and musical venues to fill up to 50% of their capacity with people who are vaccinated or present valid negative PCR tests.

South Africa: The team who discovered Omicron

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:


China's most-populous city, Shanghai, has reported its highest number of COVID-19 cases in 24 hours yet, with 981 infections.

Local authorities warned against "panic" as worried residents hurried to stock up on food from online grocery stores over fears of a lockdown's being announced soon.

"We hope that everyone will not believe or spread rumors, and especially do not maliciously spread rumors that cause panic in society," Wu Jinglei, head of Shanghai's Health Commission, said at a daily briefing.

So far, the city of 25 million has enforced targeted residential lockdowns or stay-at-home orders to try to halt the COVID-19 spike. 

Meanwhile, carmaker BMW Group announced on Wednesday that it will temporarily suspend production of all its plants in Shenyang from Thursday because of COVID-19 control measures.

China is experiencing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic over two years ago


COVID outbreaks in China geographically very concentrated: Professor Ben Cowling

For the first time since 2020, Pakistan reported zero coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, following signs that the fifth wave of the pandemic is slowing down.

Authorities lifted all pandemic restrictions last week as new hospital admissions significantly declined.

The total figures of coronavirus infections in South Korea has reached 10 million, nearly 20% of its population, officials said on Wednesday.

The surge in severe cases and coronavirus-related deaths in recent weeks has put a strain on crematories and funeral homes, the government said.

On Monday, the Health Ministry ordered crematories across the country to operate for longer hours to cremate up to seven bodies per day, up from five.

The country's drug safety agency said on Wednesday that it will give emergency approval for the use of Merck & Co.'s COVID-19 treatment pill for adults, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The pill is the second oral antiviral on the market, after Pfizer Inc.'s Paxlovid. 

Could COVID pills be game changers?


The Netherlands has scrapped the last special measures to contain the spread of coronavirus as the country's hospitalization rates remain stable.

As of Wednesday, people will no longer be required to wear masks on public transport or take mandatory tests before entering nightclubs, and large events can operate without fixed seats.

Wearing of masks is still required at airports and place due to international agreement, the government said, while also advising people to observe usual hygiene rules.

German virologist Christian Drosten has stated that infection rates will remain high in the country until mid-April.

The situation will not improve before Easter "if we don't take action," Drosten told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper.

The Berlin Charite researcher added that stricter curbs will "most likely" be necessary for the winter season.

Germany's infection rates have been persistently high in recent weeks, causing German states to delay fully easing restrictions instead of opening up as on March 20 as initially planned.


In the US, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted on late on Tuesday she has tested positive for COVID-19 adding that she has "mild" symptoms" and is "feeling fine."

She also said her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had tested negative and was self-isolating until their household was fully cleared. 


The number of new coronavirus cases globally has increased by 7% in the last week, even as reported COVID-19 deaths fell, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The increase was largely driven by rising infections in the Western Pacific, the only remaining region where cases are rising, reporting a 21% jump last week.

WHO emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said on Wednesday: "Countries that have high rates of vaccinating their vulnerable populations are weathering the transmission storm."

"We're not seeing that translate into pressure on the health systems or higher rates of hospitalization and death." 

WHO: Disruption to health care services poses 'extreme risk' to people with serious illnesses

fh/dj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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