Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
14 Jan 2022
11:13 am

Gauteng officially out of Covid fourth wave, health dept confirms

Thapelo Lekabe

Compared to the previous waves of Covid-19 infections, the fourth wave had fewer reported hospitalisations and deaths.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: Gallo Images/Sydney Seshibedi

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the Gauteng province has this week officially exited the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, with South Africa’s eight other provinces having reached their peaks of the fourth wave.

“We can now officially say that Gauteng has technically exited the fourth wave this week, and all other provinces have reached their peaks and are now on the decline,” Phaahla said.

The minister was speaking on Friday during the Department of Health’s first virtual briefing for 2022, on government’s efforts in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and its national vaccination rollout programme.

ALSO READ: Health department urges public to report vaccine adverse events

While Gauteng had exited the fourth wave, which was driven by the Omicron variant, Phaahla said the decrease in new infections in other provinces was not a steep decline.

He said compared to the previous waves of Covid infections, the fourth wave had fewer reported hospitalisations and deaths.

“So, this virus rises steeply but when it goes down, it goes down slowly but at least it’s going down and this is encouraging,” Phaahla said.

New infections

When the Omicron variant was first detected in the country last year, Gauteng was the epicentre of the fourth wave.

However, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the Western Cape has overtaken the province in terms of the majority of daily cases reported.

As of Thursday, South Africa recorded 5,920 new coronavirus cases and 51 related deaths.

The majority of new cases were from the Western Cape (25%) followed by Gauteng province (20%). KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 19% while the Eastern Cape and Limpopo each accounted for 9%, respectively.

Mpumalanga and the North West each accounted for 5%, respectively. The Free State and Northern Cape each accounted for 4%, respectively.

Omicron variant

During the health department’s last briefing on 17 December 2021, Phaahla said the fourth wave was still raging through the country, and officials were worried about the surge in new infections.

He said they were concerned about the festive season holidays due to people travelling to different provinces and social gatherings.

However, Phaahla said they had noted that the Omicron variant – besides being highly transmissible – did not result in an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, because of the decreased threat of severe illness in people infected with the variant, compared to previous variants.

“The trends over the following weeks all over the country followed that of Gauteng. We indeed saw steep rises of infections on a daily basis with high positivity rates of been 25 and 30%, and even above that on a daily basis.

“Fortunately, the pattern of highly reduced severity – as borne out by low hospitalisation rates, including less use of oxygen as a therapy, and less use of high care and ICU – also continued in the other provinces,” he said.

But the minister warned that Omicron was still deadly, especially for people who have not received their Covid-19 jabs.

“Notwithstanding the reduced severity overall, the Omicron variant is still very deadly especially for people of advanced age and also people with comorbidities and the unvaccinated.”

NOW READ: Omicron especially dangerous for unvaccinated – WHO