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SA can learn from Europe's COVID-19 second wave, say experts

Several countries have gone into yet another lockdown to stop the spread of the virus like in Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, many of which have fewer coronavirus cases than South Africa at the moment.

An information poster on the wearing of face masks and social distancing measures as well as the ban of alcoholic beverages during certain hours during the novel coronavirus pandemic is seen in the city of Nuremberg, southern Germany, on 28 October 2020. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - South African scientists are concerned about how rapidly the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading in Europe, noticing similarities in the factors driving a second wave.

Several countries have gone into yet another lockdown to stop the spread of the virus like in Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, many of which have fewer coronavirus cases than South Africa at the moment.

Many are expecting it will be a dark and grim December holiday if the number of cases continue to rise at a rapid pace in Europe once again the epicentre of the pandemic.

“I was speaking to my counterpart in Belgium, and were anticipating how by next week they won’t have enough hospital beds,” Professor Salim Abdool Karim said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit crisis levels in parts of Europe again and South African experts like Karim are keeping a close eye on developments.

He said that there were three factors that were driving this second wave in European countries; complacency when it comes to preventative measures, "super-spreader" events and people letting their guard down during the holiday period.

He's hoping South Africa will not reach the level of crisis that's gripping Europe: “Partially because we are much better prepared now, we have the options of field hospitals. Our hospitals are much better organised now and we will be able to cope even with a surge.”

Wits vaccinology professor, Shabir Madhi, said that although he believed the resurgence in COVID-19 cases in South Africa might follow a different pattern compared to Europe, there were lessons South Africa could draw from this.

“What we can learn from Europe is that when people become more complacent, you are going to experience a resurgence. But what we can’t do, is adopt the European system to the South African resurgence.”

Madhi is adamant that a second wave in South Africa will be less severe than what was experienced during the first peak in winter when the country recorded an average of 10,000 daily new infections.

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