While the symptoms may be relatively mild compared to the first and second waves, Covid remains a life-threatening disease, according to department of health spokesperson Foster Mohale.
Mohale said daily infections had been rising over the past seven days and this should serve as a warning for people, especially the unvaccinated.
“Covid remains a pandemic until the World Health Organisation declares it otherwise,” he said.
Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla yesterday said the department noticed a rise in Covid infections over the past two weeks, especially in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Although he said it was not yet clear if the fifth wave has started in South Africa, Phaahla said the numbers suggested SA was on the brink of it.
“As of yesterday, Gauteng alone accounted for 53% of positive cases, KZN 23% and Western Cape 11%,” Phaahla said.
University of Pretoria associate professor for health systems and public health Dr Elize Webb said the surge was probably caused by the rain and cold conditions as people were in closer contact and remained indoors, which lead to higher transmission.
According to Webb, despite the disease being mild with a low mortality rate, it had a higher case load.
“The increase seen is, however, not at the same level as the previous waves. A dramatic increase will more likely point to a new variant, which is not the case now,” she said.
The virus and the disease was becoming endemic, Webb said. However, the omicron variant was still responsible for the majority of infections in SA.
“Different variants can make you sick again and the current literature points towards six months protection from the vaccines. Thus the call from government for all of us to continue going for our
booster shots,” she said.
“The SA population has been very slow on vaccine uptake with about 44% vaccinated, so we can have a warning of people being susceptible to reinfection as well.”
Webb added that the entire globe was still affected by Covid and SA should certainly not think it was all over.
“The virus is something we all have to learn to live with for some time to come,” she said.
Phaahla said the country’s positivity rate remained quite high at 17%, adding this was the first time SA had witnessed a resurgence in infections since the end of the national state of disaster.
With the possibility of a new variant, Phaahla noted that scientists had only confirmed the subvariants of omicron being BA.4 and BA.5, which were not enough to be defined as variants of concern because the changes were not significant.
Dr Richard Lessells of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform said BA.4 and the BA.5 were not new variants, but rather diversifications of the omicron variant.
“There is some evidence that these new lineages are replacing the previous dominant lineage, BA.2. The new lineages account for half of the cases since early April,” he said.
– lungas@citizen. co.za.
Additional reporting by Xanet Scheepers
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