Health experts say that South Africa should introduce stricter lockdown regulations to avoid the impact of new Covid-19 variants and a severe third wave.
Dr Asmal Dasoo, convenor of the Progressive Health Forum, told News24 that South Africa should move to a higher lockdown level to further limit gatherings.
He said that the most important thing was to prepare healthcare workers for an influx of new cases, and that ideally gatherings should be limited to around 10 people.
This was echoed by Alex van den Heever, chair of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, who said that restrictions will need to be introduced as the country ramps up its vaccination programme.
“All we have to do now is block all gatherings of more than ten people. Once you have more than ten people, the spread becomes more exponential.”
He added that a travel ban on the UK and India was unlikely to make much difference, as Covid-19 variants from these two countries have likely been circulating in South Africa for much longer than official data suggests.
Speaking to eNCA, professor Adrian Puren of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that non-pharmaceutical interventions will be key to addressing the third wave.
This should include the wearing of masks as well as social-distancing said. He added that a level 3 lockdown, as implemented during the country’s second wave, could be a key tool in the country’s fight against another wave.
On Thursday (7 May), Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that government can facilitate and intervene, but ultimately it would rather concentrate on economic recovery rather than imposing further restrictions.
“Therefore every citizen must adhere to the non-pharmaceutical interventions if we are to avoid further restrictions,” he said.
He added that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is deliberating on the issue of border control and final determinations will find expression in Cabinet and be communicated to the public accordingly.
Recent predictive modelling published by the NICD showed that Gauteng is at the highest risk of having a particularly devastating third wave, due to the higher concentration of working-age adults and people with co-morbidities in the province, and the lower estimates of seroprevalence – the level of a pathogen in a population, as measured in blood serum.
Overall, the NICD predicts that the peak of the third wave will be lower than the second wave – except in Gauteng.
It said that its modelling data does not predict when the third wave will hit, but rather what shape it will take and what will drive it.
In this regard, it said that seasonal factors will play a part, echoing views from medical experts who believe the third wave will likely hit around the end of May entering June, coinciding with the shift to winter.
A major caveat to the NICD’s statistical modelling is that it does not factor in other Covid-19 variants, using the basis that the main form of the virus is the local B.1.351 variant.
Should other variants come into play, it said, the peak of the third wave could be much higher than the second wave across South Africa. The report was published before the UK (B.1.1.7) and Indian (B.1.617.2) variants of the virus were discovered in the country.
On Sunday, the health department reported that the UK and Indian variants have been detected locally – in 11 and 4 cases, respectively. The UK variant is already at a community transmission level, while the Indian variant is still contained.
On Monday (10 May), South Africa reported 1,129 new Covid-19 cases, taking the total reported to 1,597,724. Deaths have reached 54,825, while recoveries have climbed to 1,517,350, leaving the country with a balance of 25,549 active cases. T
he total number of vaccines administered is 395,230.