When the fourth Covid-19 wave is expected to hit South Africa: expert

A fourth wave of Covid-19 infections is set to hit South Africa at the beginning of December, says a leading health expert.

Salim Abdool Karim, former chairman of the government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, told Bloomberg that the current estimates show the fourth wave starting on 2 December and will last about 75 days.

The government assumes that the wave will follow a similar pattern to the current one and that there will be a new variant by then, he said at a Government Technical Advisory Centre conference. Data suggest the current wave will end around 26 August.

South Africa could open registrations to allow people aged between 18 and 34 to get vaccinated as early as this week, said health minister Joe Phaahla.

If the decision is made it would bring forward an earlier plan to allow that age group to begin registering on 1 September. The matter has been raised with the nation’s cabinet.

“We are in further consultations with our leadership in cabinet, (and) we will probably before the end of this week open for all adults above 18,” he told 702. “If not this week, then not later than next Monday (23 August) for all adults.”

Phaahla added that his department would not recommend relaxing the country’s lockdown restrictions due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

He said that the pressure on hospitals should ease if the average number of cases falls below 10,000 a day with a positivity rate of around 10% in the next week or two.

However, he said that the Covid-19 numbers don’t support the relaxation of restrictions this week.

On Monday (16 August), South Africa reported 7,983 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,613,569.

Deaths have reached 77,440, while recoveries have climbed to 2382809, leaving the country with a balance of 153,320 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 9,557,542.

Three scenarios

A report published by professional services firm PwC this week shows three scenarios for how South Africa’s lockdown levels could move until the end of the year.

Both PwC’s baseline and downside assumptions consider a likely fourth wave of infections starting around the December holidays.

Baseline scenario

  • Level 3 ‘lite’ lockdown to be in place for the rest of August as Covid-19 numbers improve.
  • Level 1 in September as the third wave infections taper out, continued through October and November.
  • Level 2 lockdown in December as infections start to rise, starting the fourth wave.

Downside scenario

  • Level 3 ‘lite’ lockdown to mid-August with the possibility of more restrictions being added if infection numbers do not improve.
  • Level 2 lockdown in September and October.
  • Level 1 lockdown in November provides a brief reprieve.
  • Level 2 lockdown in December as infections start to rise, starting the fourth wave.

Upside scenario

  • Level 2 lockdown as early as mid-August as numbers improve.
  • Level 1 in September as third wave infections taper out, continuing to October.
  • No restrictions in November.
  • Level 1 re-introduced in December as a precautionary move to delay the fourth wave.


With further reporting by Bloomberg.


Read: South Africa to open Covid-19 vaccines to all adults in the next week: health minister

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When the fourth Covid-19 wave is expected to hit South Africa: expert