Medical experts and government officials have raised concerns about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus cases in South Africa.
On Thursday (22 October), the country reported 2,156 new cases, taking the total number of cases in the country reported to 710,515.
Deaths have reached 18,843 (a daily increase of 102), while recoveries have climbed to 642,560, leaving the country with a balance of 49,112 active cases.
This is the second day in a row that South Africa has reported an increase of more than 2,000 cases, with 2,055 new cases reported on Wednesday.
Co-director of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory council, professor Salim Abdool Karim, says that South Africa has seen a slow and steady increase in the overall number of cases nationally, since the start of the month.
In an interview with eNCA, Karim said that the country’s increase infections were not ‘alarming’, but there is concern over the trend which could ‘turn’ for the worse going forward.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has also warned that South Africa is recording a ‘worrying increase’ in coronavirus infections, especially in the Western Cape.
“As government, we have a responsibility to alert you when we see concerning trends. It would be irresponsible of us to ignore ‘small flames’ that we see redeveloping in some parts of the country,” he said on Wednesday.
Mkhize said that similar trends were seen in South Africa at the start of its coronavirus pandemic, which quickly led to an increased burden on the healthcare sector.
“I wish to bring to the attention of all South Africans that our epidemiological reports are showing that in the country, over the last seven days there has been an increase of 9.1% in new cases. Similarly, over the last 14 days, there has been an increase of 10.7%.
“We are also seeing concerning increases in some of the provinces. To illustrate this, in the last 7 days, there was a marked increase in the number of new cases in the Western Cape.”
Mkhize encouraged all provinces to pay attention to these increasing numbers and quickly mount a response, including contact tracing and quarantine.
“We must mention that the rate of new infections and deaths will inform the recommendations that the Health Department makes to the National Coronavirus Council,” he said.
While government and health officials have encouraged South Africans to continue following health and safety guidelines, research shows that ‘pandemic fatigue’ has set in for many South Africans.
A survey conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) shows that there is greater complacency in compliance with public health measures, increasing the unnecessary risk of exposure to Covid-19 during the lower lockdown levels.
These latest findings come from a survey conducted between 3 July and 8 September, during which time South Africa’s alert levels were gradually relaxed.
The key findings demonstrate show that:
- Four in ten adults believe the threat of the Coronavirus is exaggerated;
- One in three adults do not always wear a mask when leaving home;
- Fear of Covid-19 is declining;
- Trust in the President is declining.
“These and other findings combined point to pandemic fatigue,” the HSRC said.
“This is important to take note of as any premature reduction in preventative behaviours poses a significant challenge in our ability to combat the virus.
“Professor Abdool Karim, chair of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory group, has similarly warned about complacency, mass gatherings and eased travel restrictions as factors that are increasingly likely to make a second wave in the country inevitable.”