South Africa’s strict measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus may limit the severity of the pandemic’s next wave, the government official running the national vaccination program said.
Africa’s most-industrialised nation has fully vaccinated about a third of the country’s 40 million adults, and has kept in place prevention measures including a curfew, limits on gathering and mandatory use of masks in public. The percentage of those vaccinated is higher among older citizens.
“If we continue with social distancing, we will still get a fourth wave, but it will be mild,” Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director general of South Africa’s Department of Health, said in an interview, citing mathematical modelling.
“It could be a quarter of the first wave – minimal. People will get infected and get sick and have a lousy Christmas,” but deaths and hospitalizations will be lower, he said.
The country has had the worst confirmed outbreak on the continent, with almost 3 million infections and about 90,000 deaths. A measure of excess deaths – or deaths exceeding the annual average – puts likely coronavirus fatalities at almost three times the official figure.
Still, the abandoning of precautionary measures or the emergence of a new variant could change the outlook, Crisp said.
“We are preparing for the worst.”