Amid a slowdown in the state public vaccination campaign, with many vaccination stations closed, experts have predicted a new wave of Covid that could hit South America next month.
South Africa has recorded a spike in Covid cases – the highest in three months – with 2,846 new cases and 16 deaths this week, bringing the death toll to over 100,000.
The health ministry on Thursday expressed concern about the surge, acknowledging that the number of people vaccinated was well below what was planned.
Department spokesman Foster Mohail called the government’s vaccination campaign “out of line with our plans.”
“This time vaccination coverage is low compared to last year.
“But we continue to explore different strategies for creating demand for vaccines by working with other stakeholders, including the sporting community.
“We would like to remind people, especially the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, that we are not yet in the forest. They should take the numbers as a warning and protect themselves and their loved ones with vaccines,” Mohale said.
The increase in the number of people who tested positive “was probably caused by omicron sub-variants, with [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] and other virologists who are closely monitoring the situation.”
Eliminating the possibility that the government would buy more drugs if the shelf life expired, Mohale said: “We still have ample supplies.”
Leading epidemiologist Dr. Joe Barnes warned that a new wave is “coming soon.”
“It is difficult to predict when and how severe this will happen because it will depend on the nature of the new option that drives the wave – currently unknown.
“Many virologists are predicting a new wave sometime next month. So it’s not far off.
“The vaccination status of the population is disappointingly low,” Barnes said.
“Having Covid from another variant may not provide protection from the new variant.
“Without full vaccination of large numbers of people, the population remains vulnerable.
“This is especially true if this figure is constantly tested below 10% for a certain period of time. If the rate rises above 20%, then there is cause for concern,” Barnes said.
“A large number of vaccination stations have closed, and the advertising campaign to get people to get vaccinated or get boosters has all but dried up.”
Barnes said the positivity rate is based on the percentage of positive results among all people who have been tested for Covid in a given period — most often in the past 24 hours, but sometimes averaging over a week or even longer.
“Another complication with positivity rates is the significant differences that can arise depending on why people get tested.
These reasons are closely related to the control measures in place at any given time.
“A significant number of people can get tested so they can travel or attend social gatherings. Few of these people have tested positive and this reduces the rate of positives during this time.
“Another significant group of participants consists of those who are admitted to health services such as hospitals for reasons unrelated to suspected Covid. They have all been tested and some of them have tested positive, although they have no symptoms.
“As soon as there are fewer people admitted to hospitals because services are overwhelmed, those test numbers also change.
“These examples are just an illustration that predicting based on test positivity is a risky business.
“Another indicator of positive results that should also be considered is the number of positive samples containing viruses that are taken from wastewater in cities and towns. This is evidence that the virus is circulating in this urban area,” Barnes said.