A sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa suggests that the fifth wave is imminent.

The country’s rate of infection has hit a three-month high, just a week after the Easter weekend. The latest figures reported by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) are 4,406 cases. South Africa’s positivity rate has also rocketed to 15.6%, almost doubling in seven days.

National Department of Health spokesperson, Foster Mohale, said the department has observed the rise in infections and is ‘concerned’, since the national vaccination rate is well below target.

The government hoped that at least 70% of the adult population would’ve been fully vaccinated by the end of 2021. As it stands, only 49.18% of South Africans over the age of 18 have either received two doses of Pfizer or the single Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jab.

‘Fifth wave will be similar’

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist, told Health-e News that the fifth wave will have features similar to the previous four.

“There has been a three-month gap between each of the COVID-19 waves. Based on that, if that trend continues, then we are likely to see the next wave in May. There would have to be a new variant driving it,” said Abdool Karim.

Recently, two new sub-lineages of the Omicron variant were discovered in South Africa, but the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant is still dominating.

“It’s too early to tell if new infections are influenced by the sub-variants of Omicron, but the NICD and other experts are closely monitoring the situation”, said Mohale.

NICD Executive Director, Prof Adrian Puren, urged caution when interpreting the latest information.

“The public should exercise caution in interpreting this data as there may be changes in test patterns. An early warning indicator, wastewater detection surveillance, shows an increase in Gauteng,” said Puren.

Vaccination remains the best defence against Omicron and any other known or upcoming variant.– Health-e News