South Africa’s daily coronavirus test positivity rate rose to its highest level yet on Wednesday amid its fifth wave of infections.
There were 6,170 new Covid-19 cases identified, representing a 22.6% positivity rate of those tested, with the majority of the cases in Gauteng province at 41%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 27%, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a statement on its website.
South Africa is still a long way off previous records. The largest daily count for new cases was 26,976, reached on Dec. 15, and the highest positivity rate was 33.4%, reported on Jan. 4. But the fifth wave comes just as winter starts and just after the country ended its more than two-year National State of Disaster.
While the government now no longer has the ability to broadly override the rights of citizens, it has implemented new health legislation that will require proof of vaccination or negative tests for some gatherings and the continued wearing of masks in indoor spaces.
It’s possible the fifth wave will be the least onerous so far. The new omicron sublineages appear to be less severe than the original and the fifth wave is unlikely to cause “even anything close” to the number of hospitalizations and deaths that occurred when omicron first appeared in November, according to Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Nonetheless, health experts and the government are urging citizens to get vaccinated, receive their boosters and continue taking precautions against the virus.