While symptoms may be relatively mild compared to the first and second waves, Covid remains a life-threatening disease, Health Department spokesman Foster Mohail said.
Mohale said daily infections have increased over the past seven days and this should serve as a warning to people, especially the unvaccinated.
“Covid remains a pandemic until the World Health Organization says otherwise,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Joe Fahla said yesterday that the department has seen an increase in Covid infections over the past two weeks, especially in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
While he said it’s not yet clear if a fifth wave has started in South Africa, Fahla said the numbers indicate South Africa is on the brink of it.
“As of yesterday, Gauteng alone accounted for 53% of positive cases, KZN for 23% and the Western Cape for 11%,” Fahla said.
University of Pretoria adjunct professor of health systems and public health, Dr Elise Webb, said the surge was likely caused by rain and cold as people were in closer contact and stayed indoors, resulting in higher transmission rates.
Even though the illness was mild and with a low mortality rate, the incidence was higher, Webb said.
“Visible growth, however, is not at the same level as previous waves. A sharp rise is more likely to point to a new option, which is not currently there,” she said.
The virus and disease are becoming endemic, Webb said. However, the omicron variant was still responsible for the majority of infections in SA.
“Different options can make you sick again, and current literature points to six months of vaccine protection. Therefore, the government’s call to all of us to continue
booster shots,” she said.
“The South American population is very slow to adjust to the vaccine, with about 44% vaccinated, so we can warn that people are also susceptible to reinfection.”
Webb added that Covid still affected the entire globe, and South Africa should not think that everything is over.
“The virus is something we all have to learn to live with for a while,” she said.
Fakhla said the country’s positivity rate remains quite high at 17%, adding that this was the first time South Africa has seen a spike in infections since the end of the national disaster.
Regarding the possibility of a new variant, Fakhla noted that scientists have only confirmed omicron sub-variants such as BA.4 and BA.5, which are not enough to be identified as variants of concern because the changes were not significant.
Dr. Richard Lessels of the KwaZulu-Natal Sequencing Research and Innovation Platform said that BA.4 and BA.5 were not new options, but rather a diversification of the omicron variant.
“There is some evidence that these new lines are replacing the previous dominant line, BA.2. New pedigrees account for half of the cases since early April,” he said.
– lungas @ citizen. co.za.
Additional reporting by Xanet Scheepers