South Africa faces fifth Covid wave in coming weeks as deaths pass 100,000

 ·31 Mar 2022

South Africa’s official death toll from the coronavirus has passed the 100,000 mark, a week after the country relaxed almost all restrictions in response to a decline in new infections.

An additional 44 deaths from the disease have been reported, bringing the total to 100,020, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said in a statement on Wednesday.

Still, the actual number of Covid-19 related deaths may be triple that toll, studies by the South African Medical Research Council that track the number of deaths above the historical norm show.

The number of fatalities surpassed 60,000 in late June last year, as the country contended with a third wave of infections that was primarily driven by the delta variant. President Cyril Ramaphosa responded by raising the nation’s coronavirus alert status, banning all gatherings and closing schools for two weeks.

The omicron strain, which was first identified in South Africa in samples taken in early November, subsequently displaced delta. The mortality rate then slowed, adding to evidence that omicron causes milder disease than other variants even though it is more transmissible, and curbs were progressively relaxed.

Health officials are keeping a close eye on the omicron sub-variant BA.2, which appears to be even more transmissible than the original strain and accounted for almost a fifth of the country’s coronavirus cases in January.

A resurgence in the delta variant, albeit small, is also attracting some attention as it increases the risk of a potential new combined strain.

Scientists advising the government have said they expect a fifth wave of infections to hit at the end of May.

Read: Pushback against new lockdown rules proposed for South Africa

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