Covid fifth wave ‘looms large’ as South Africa records over 7,500 new infections

Health minister Joe Phaahla says that South Africa is not yet in the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections, but as the country enters winter, the risk of a greater wave of infections is apparent.

“As a country, we have witnessed four waves of Covid-19 and we are now (speculating) as to whether we are already in the fifth wave, or it is still coming.

“Indications at this stage are that we are not yet in the fifth wave, but as the cold weather takes hold and we spend more time indoors, the risk of the fifth wave continues to loom large,” he said.

Tabling his department’s budget in parliament on Tuesday, Phaahla said that the government will not drop measures to help with the response to the Covid-19 virus, and reiterated its intentions to use the country’s Health Act in managing infections going forward.

The comment period for consultation on the health regulations has been extended to 5 August 2022, and comments on the regulations can be submitted to [email protected]

The latest reported figures for Covid-19 infections mark an uptick in cases, with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) recording 7,523 new cases that have been identified in South Africa.

The total number of laboratory-confirmed cases is at 3.85 million. The latest increase represents a 23% positivity rate. There are 66,393 active cases in the country, most of which are in KwaZulu Natal (25,372) and Gauteng (19,735).

The department reported new 26 deaths, of which eight occurred in the past 24 to 48 hours. Total deaths attributed to Covid-19 in South Africa stands at 100,559 to date.

The majority of new cases are in Gauteng (38%), followed by KwaZulu Natal (24%). Western Cape accounts for 17%; the Eastern Cape for 8%; Free State accounted for 5%, and the North West accounted for 4%.

The seven-day moving average also remains persistently high, the NICD said. The seven-day average on Tuesday was recorded at 24.7, higher than the previous day at 24.0%.

Along with the increase in infections, there has also been an increase in hospital admissions, with the NICD tracking 148 new admissions.

According to Phaahla, over 35.2 million vaccinations have been administered to just over 19.7 million adults, representing 49.5% of the adult population. Futhermore, around 70% of the population has come into contact with the virus in some way, adding some immunity and natural protections.

However, he stressed that this protection is temporary, and vaccines remain the best option to combat Covid-19 and its variants. R2 billion has been budgeted to continue the health department’s vaccination programme.

Speaking to Health-e News, Public Health Specialist Lead of the National Covid Hospital Surveillance at the NICD, Dr Waasila Jassat, said that the recent jump in infections can be partially attributed to the virus infecting more children, who have much lower vaccine coverage.

Currently, the goverment only allows for children over the age of 12 to be vaccinated. However, Jassat said that the ministerial advisory committee is currently working on an advisory on vaccinating 5 to 12-year-olds.

Read: 70% of South Africa has come into contact with Covid – and have some form of immunity: health minister

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Covid fifth wave ‘looms large’ as South Africa records over 7,500 new infections