Warnings that COVID infections in SA are slowly increasing

In the past few days the Northern Cape, in particular, has seen a marked increase.

FILE: A City of Tshwane Health official takes a nasal swab to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus on a taxi operator at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria Central Business District, on 11 June 2020. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Coronavirus infections in South Africa are slowly starting to increase.

This is according to actuary Louis Rossouw who analyses data on the pandemic’s trajectory compiled by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

In the past few days the Northern Cape, in particular, has seen a marked increase.

In epidemiology, the basic reproduction number reflects the average number of people being infected by one person.

READ: 139 new COVID deaths push SA’s toll to 51,560

Rossouw is the head of research & analytics at reinsurance company Gen Re South Africa and member of the COVID-19 actuaries response group; he looked at this data to track the movement of the pandemic in the country.

“That number is more than one when new infections will grow and it’s less than one when then the number of new infections will decline.”

Rossouw estimates the reproduction number by looking at the change in COVID-19 case numbers over time, depending on testing and reporting mechanisms remaining stable.

“During the last two weeks or so R has been increasing, getting closer to one and in the last seven days or so, R has gone over one for South Africa. Currently, it’s between 1 and 1.1 and by implication, that means that the number of infections have slowly started to increase in South Africa.”

Two provinces are currently tracking above the one threshold, with the Northern Cape having experienced a sharp rise to an excess of 1.3.

This means every one coronavirus case leads to another 1.3 cases down the line.

Four schools in the town of Calvinia, in the Northern Cape, were recently closed in a bid to rein in rising coronavirus infection numbers.

The Free State is at around 1.2.

Rossouw said in Gauteng, R is at 1.1: “It’s not very high but the concern here is that Gauteng has a large number of cases still compared to the other provinces. So a smaller growth rate there has a bigger impact than in other provinces.”

The Western Cape is just below one, but has been steadily increasing while Kwazulu-Natal is also just below the reproduction threshold of 1.

In the Eastern Cape, the R-estimate has been hovering above and below 1 over the past seven days.

This method is an early indicator that is based on the number of reported COVID-19 cases.

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More concern has been voiced over the potential for more COVID-19 infections over the upcoming holidays.

The threat is due to the risk associated with gatherings for Easter and Ramadan celebrations.

Authorities are preparing for a third wave of infections to coincide with the winter months.

Medical Research Council CEO professor Glenda Gray said increased infection was expected with the upcoming holidays.

"Easter is a big festivity. People move around the country. They go back to their homes. Ramadan also, people meet with each other and there's always a possibility particularly if they're meeting indoors, that transmission can occur."

Gray is hopeful that all healthcare workers will be immunised by the time winter approaches.

"Hopefully,by the time we meet winter, the healthcare workers would have been vaccinated either through the implementation study or through the national rollout programme."

They are aiming to have half a million healthcare workers inoculated by the end of April.

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