GP, WC govts warn COVID 3rd wave looming with Easter long weekend approaching

South Africans were looking forward to the Human Rights Day long weekend, the Easter break, and school holidays under lockdown level 1, but experts warn this may result in increased risk for a third COVID-19 wave.

Professional healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) attend to a patient inside the temporary ward dedicated to the treatment of possible COVID-19 coronavirus patients at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on 11 January 2021. Picture: Phill Magakoe/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng government has warned that the province and country face several risk factors which could lead to a possible third COVID-19 wave.

The provincial council gave an update on the spread of the coronavirus in the province.

Scientists from the premier’s advisory committee said their COVID-19 risk index showed a high possibility of a resurgence in the coming months due to the slow start to the vaccination programme and relaxed alert level 1 restrictions.

The advisory committee’s Dr Mary Kawonga has noted that while the country exited its second COVID-19 wave about five weeks ago, transmission in several areas was still ongoing.

“The cases are not as high as they were at least 10 weeks ago, but they are still not low enough. The community transmission is still ongoing; medium to low risk of transmission in our community.”

Kawonga said there were also other factors, outside of the epidemiological data, which could lead to a third COVID-19 wave in the country.

“Apart from variants and re-infection possibilities are the fact that whenever we relax public health and social measures, often we see people changing their behaviour; and then the other factor is the vaccination delays – not just in South Africa, but globally most countries haven’t reached the vaccination levels that they had anticipated when they started out.”

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Alongside social distancing, the wearing of masks, and hygiene practices – Kawonga called for the avoidance of non-essential travel and gatherings in the lead-up and during the Easter weekend.

Premier David Makhura said his government was bracing for an increase in the number of cases in the province as a result of the Easter break travelling.

Makhura also warned that the moved to lockdown level 1, ahead of the long weekend, was a cause for concern.

He also said the winter season was approaching and not enough people had been vaccinated to reach population immunity, to delay the arrival of a third COVID-19 wave.

While Premier said it would not be necessary to impose travel restrictions again, he stressed that residents should avoid large crowds.

“All you need to get to the third wave is one or two events that have a huge impact in the different parts of the province, and then the trend is established that we are now getting increases. Let us not lower the guard.”

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At the same time, the Western Cape Health Department has warned people to be vigilant ahead of the upcoming Easter holidays.

The province has more than 2,400 active COVID-19 infections, and 12 additional deaths.

Cases have declined by 5 percent, but admissions have increased slightly by 12 percent.

Head of Health Dr Keith Cloete said, “There is the long weekend, there is Easter, the period of Ramadan, there are other long weekends and school holidays. So, we are coming into season of holidays and we really need to be very vigilant about picking up any cases and really be very strict.”

MEC for Health Nomafrench Mbombo said while the number of active cases remains low, COVID-19 is not on holiday.

“We appeal to you that its not over yet, until at least 67% of the population is vaccinated. It means that the risk is still high. That is why we urge people to stay in your bubble if you can.”

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