South Africa not into a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize recently announced that South Africa currently has a of 797 679 COVID-19 cases. He said  2 270 new cases have been identified since the last report and that  58 deaths have been reported; 28 in Eastern Cape, 13 in Free State, 8 in Gauteng and 9 in Western Cape 9 which  brings the total number of deaths to 20 903.

Mkhize also announced that so far, 5 290 966 tests have been conducted and that 21 904 have been done since the last report. According to the Minister, South Africa currently stands at a 92,5% recovery rate looking at the 710 099 recoveries so far.

“As the festive season approaches health experts have cautioned that reckless action could lead to super-spreader events and increased infections in rural parts of the country. The number of reported cases had remained stable for a few weeks with cases averaging under 2 000. But last week various cluster outbreaks had sparked an increase in reported cases. The biggest hotspot areas had been in the Eastern Cape, Free State and the Western Cape,” said the Minister.

However, despite these outbreaks, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the head of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, said South Africa was not in a second wave and was not on its way there. He warned against the continued alarm raised on the matter and said on average, case numbers in most areas in the country were low.

“South Africa is not in a second wave right now and it is not entering a second wave right now. We have an outbreak in the Eastern Cape and in the garden route area of the Western Cape. If those outbreaks are not effectively controlled, we run the risk of going into a second wave. We are actually in a good position of low transmission in the rest of the country,” said Abdool Karim.

Professor Glenda Gray, a member of the SA Medical Research Council member Professor Glenda, echoed Abdool Karim’s sentiment, she said what was happening in the Eastern Cape a classic case of community transmission being driven by super-spreader events and that the rising cases were not unusual and were part of pandemic patterns.

“The ongoing transmission will always continue until we have a vaccine or herd immunity. There will be events that will cause super-spreading outbreaks. Super-spreader events drive transmissions even further and affect people who were not affected in the first phase of the pandemic,” said Gray.

Gray and Abdool Karim said they were concerned about the festive season and people going to areas that were unaffected by the virus – particularly rural areas.

“My concern is the December period when there are three things that are going to happen that worry me. Firstly that people become complacent while on holiday and they stop wearing their masks and not do social distance and the second thing is they start going to parties and we will end up with super-spreader events.

“The third is I am very worried about inter-generational family gatherings, children are meeting their parents and grandparents and putting the elderly at risk. So those are the three things that I am deeply concerned about over December and those three things could end us up with a second wave in January,” he cautioned.

Abdool Karim said how citizens behave will be the ultimate marker for what happens next. He said people must control their behaviour to avoid a second wave in January.

Gray said that members of the public must make sure that when they go back to places in the country that were not affected, they continue to practise social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands.

“We are most concerned about people that are old and have comorbidities. So when people go back to see their loved ones, they should remember that it is their duty to protect those people so they do not get COVID-19,” she said.

Abdool Karim said lockdowns can only be useful in extreme situations and that the current measures being applied are sufficient to keep cases low, if the public adheres to them.

“Lockdowns are only something that should be considered as a last resort. Right now we have many tools that we can use to control the spread of the virus. It is (Lockdowns) not something that would readily be considered at any time soon. It would be something that we would think about if the hospitals are being overwhelmed and the spread is uncontrolled and people are not listening. It would have to be at a very advanced stage as a last resort,” he said.

 

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