As government scrambles to step up its vaccination drive, a COVID-19 fourth wave could be on its way.
Only three million South Africans are fully vaccinated.
The Western Cape has not even reached the peak of the third wave of COVID-19 infections but national government is already warning of a fourth wave that could be coming.
The Health Department's Dr Nicolas Crisp said that judging by the spacing of the first three waves, we could be in for another in October and November.
"There's so many variables in this pandemic and we don't really know and it's just a matter of being alert all the time," Crisp said.
At the same time, government is stepping up its vaccination drive, with three million South Africans listed as fully vaccinated so far.
Health Department officials were also confident that they would be vaccinating 300,000 people a day in the coming days.
President Cyril Ramaphosa eased lockdown restrictions this week, citing fewer Covid-19 infections, most notably in Gauteng. The president, however, cautioned that a slowing in infections does not mean the wave is over but is simply in decline. Some provinces are still experiencing rising numbers, he said.
“There are areas in the country where we still need to be concerned because the rates of infection have not yet shown signs of decline.
“As infections in Gauteng fall, daily new infections in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal continue to rise. There has also been a concerning rise of infections in the Northern Cape after a period of relative stability,” he said.
This was echoed by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa, whose latest report shows that the country is not yet in a ‘post-wave’ period – meaning the third wave is still very much in effect.
Some health experts have warned that the low numbers of infections could be short-lived – predicting that a fourth wave could start emerging as early as October.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Professor Francois Venter, the director of Ezintsha at Wits health sciences, expressed similar sentiments. According to Venter, a fourth outbreak of the coronavirus could hit South Africa around November.
He said that future waves of Covid-19 in South Africa are highly dependent on the vaccine rollout – more than just the numbers, but also who is being vaccinated.
Venter said that the government must pay attention to how many older people are being vaccinated. “Vaccinating one 60-year-old is more important than vaccinating two 35-year-olds,” he said.