A recent spike in Covid cases points to the possibility that South Africa is entering its fifth wave of cases earlier than expected, says health minister Joe Phaahla.
In a media briefing on Friday (29 April), Phaahla said the government would likely need a further week of data to officially confirm the start of the fifth wave and that the recent uptick in cases is not anomalous. Previous forecasts had pointed to a fifth Covid wave beginning in South Africa from mid-May.
“What is also uncertain from our scientists is (that) we have always been told that when a new wave comes it is driven by a new variant and at this stage, we have not been alerted of a definite new variance except changes in the Omicron variant.”
Data published on Thursday shows that these new Omicron sublineages, discovered by South African scientists earlier this month, account for about 70% of new coronavirus cases in South Africa and the strains appear to be more infectious than predecessors.
“What is clear is that we are at a great risk of Covid-19, especially as we go into a very long winter where people spend more time indoors and where our gatherings will largely be indoors with a risk of respiratory infection,” Phaahla said.
Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla: We may be entering the 5th wave much earlier…possibly we have to wait for a few more days, maybe 7days so that we can be sure that this was not just a sporadic uptake but it is a sustained uptake #COVID19
— @SAgovnews (@SAgovnews) April 29, 2022
Spike in cases
Data presented by Phaahla shows that the country’s positivity rate has rapidly increased over the last week, with the rise in daily infections led primarily by Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The positivity rate remains quite high at 17%, in Gauteng & KZN the positivity rate is above 20%, the health minister said.
“Over the last 14 days, the rise in infections has been sustained over from 2,000 up to 6,300 as reported on Wednesday, which reflected on the Tuesday test (results). As of 25 April, there has been a 137% increase in new cases compared to the seven days prior.”
Active cases have risen from the low of fewer than 15,000 cases in a day two weeks ago to 39,500 cases as of Thursday.
The country’s hospital admissions have remained relatively stable but saw a jump on Thursday with 2,000 total general admission and 192 ICU admissions.