Although symptoms may be relatively mild compared to the first and second waves, Covid remains a life-threatening illness, according to health department spokesman Foster Mohale.
Mohale said daily infections had increased over the past seven days and that should serve as a warning to people, especially the unvaccinated.
“Covid remains a pandemic until the World Health Organization decides otherwise,” he said.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said yesterday the department had noticed an increase in Covid infections over the past two weeks, particularly in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Although he said it was not yet clear whether the fifth wave had started in South Africa, Phaahla said the numbers suggested SA was on the brink.
“As of yesterday, Gauteng alone accounted for 53% of positive cases, KZN 23% and Western Cape 11%,” Phaahla said.
University of Pretoria associate professor for health systems and public health Dr Elize Webb said the surge was likely caused by rain and cold weather as people were in closer contact and staying away. indoors, resulting in higher transmission.
According to Webb, although the disease was mild with a low death rate, it had a higher number of cases.
“The increase seen is however not at the same level as previous waves. A dramatic increase will more likely indicate a new variant, which is not currently the case,” she said.
The virus and disease were becoming rampant, Webb said. However, the omicron variant was still responsible for the majority of infections in South Africa.
“Different variants can make you sick again and current literature indicates six months protection against vaccines. So the government’s call for us all to keep moving forward for us
booster shots,” she said.
“The South African population has been very slow to receive the vaccine with around 44% vaccinated, so we may also have a warning about who might re-infect.”
Webb added that the whole world was still affected by Covid and SA certainly shouldn’t think it was all over.
“The virus is something we all have to learn to live with for a while,” she said.
Phaahla said the country’s positivity rate remained quite high at 17%, adding that it was the first time South Africa had seen a resurgence in infections since the end of the national state of disaster.
With the possibility of a new variant, Phaahla noted that scientists had only confirmed the subvariants of omicron being BA.4 and BA.5, which were not sufficient to be defined as variants of concern because the changes were not significant.
Dr Richard Lessells of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform said BA.4 and BA.5 were not new variants, but rather diversifications of the omicron variant.
“There is evidence that these new lines are replacing the previous dominant line, BA.2. The new lines have accounted for half of the cases since early April,” he said.
– lungas@citizen. co.za
Additional reports from Xanet Scheepers
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