COVID-19: Week of reckoning for SA’s fifth wave

COVID-19: Next 7 days to reveal if fifth wave has arrived
The next seven days will be crucial to see whether South Africa has indeed entered its fifth wave based on the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. (Photo: Freepik)

South Africa could enter its fifth wave of cases earlier than expected, following a sharp spike in cases after the Easter weekend, says health minister Joe Phaahla.

Speaking during a media briefing on Friday (29 April), Phaahla said the fifth wave was initially expected by mid-May, or even early June.

It will be another week before the Department of Health can officially confirm the onset of the fifth wave.

New infections on the up

In the past two weeks, there has been a continuous rise in daily infections, especially in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

“The rise in daily infections took a sharper uptick as we got to the end of last week. This uptick has been sustained since this Monday, and by Wednesday, we reached over 6 000 cases,” said Phaahla.

He said the numbers suggest that the country has entered the fifth wave earlier than expected.

“It is argued that we can only say that we’re in the fifth wave if there is a sustained average (6 000 cases and more) over a seven-day period. The next few days will determine whether the uptick was sporadic or sustained,” he said.

The arrival of winter

Phaahla added that even more people will be at risk of contracting the virus as people gather indoors.

“It is going to be a very long winter – people spend more time indoors at gatherings and restaurants – with the risk of spreading respiratory infections,” said the minister.

Phaahla said that the recent Easter long weekend might’ve triggered the spike in infections.

“There is no clear driver of this spike. However, it is thought that the religious gatherings to mark Easter, as well as the holy period of Ramadan for Muslims, led to the increase,” he said.

He further urged those who have not yet received their COVID-19 jabs, to do so.

“COVID-19 remains a threat, it is not over, and we cannot afford to drop all the prevention measures. We are still under 50% of the adult population who have had at least one does of the vaccine. At least 60% will mean that we are protected,” added Phaahla.

Young teens testing positive

Dr Waasila Jassat, an epidemiologist from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said that in terms of age, all age groups show an increase in infections. However, the age group 10 to 14 years, shows the biggest jump while the older groups remain at a higher risk when taking cases and admissions into account.

There are currently close to 38 000 active cases, 2000 Covid-19 general hospital admissions, and 192 ICU admissions. Health-e News 

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