A second Covid-19 wave, re-infections, and why the next few days are vital for South Africa

 ·26 Aug 2020

The coming days will be crucial in determining whether a new wave of Covid-19 cases is coming, says the chairperson of the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee, Professor Salim Abdool Karim.

Karim told eNCA that there has been a consistent downward trend in cases across all of the provinces, which points to a ‘holding pattern’ in the country.

He said there was initial concern that there may be a surge in cases as restrictions are eased – and while these worries have eased somewhat, he stressed that we are not in the clear yet.

The next few days will be important for determining whether the country could see a second wave or a spike in cases, he said.

“Right now I’m not yet saying that we’re in the clear because we need to have about ten days after we have eased our restrictions. When we look at the data in the next few days, we’ll get a sense of whether the easing of the restrictions have lead to an uptick in the number of cases.

“We have to just ensure that we don’t give the virus a chance to break out again and spread wildly under the current situation,” Karim said.

Global Covid-19 infections have hit 23.7 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 814,000.

In South Africa, there have been 1,567 new cases, taking the total reported to 613,017. Deaths have reached 13,308 (an increase of 149), while recoveries have climbed to 520,381, leaving the country with a balance of 79,328 active cases.


Karim said that there has been a ‘clear cut’ case of re-infection in Hong Kong where a man reported having the coronavirus nearly five months after first being treated for it.

In this instance, a man was instituted to hospital in Hong Kong with one strain of the virus, and then 142 days later was found to be positive with a separate ‘European strain’ after travelling from Spain.

“He had two different strains of the virus, that’s why we are quite confident it is case of re-infection. Now what we don’t know yet is whether this happening much more commonly and we just don’t know about it,” Karim said.

The professor said there is uncertainty as to whether the first infection alters the chemical spectrum of the second infection – meaning the second infection is much more mild. “There may be serious repercussions.”

This could mean that herd immunity is not a practical prospect and it could also mean that the country has to take continual protection and that everyone remains at high-risk.

“The most substantial implication is that vaccines try to mimic natural immunity. If natural immunity does not protect for more than a few months, then a vaccine may also only protect for a few months and require repeated doses,” he said.

Read: Updated level 2 lockdown rules for South Africa – including weddings, home affairs services and flights

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