Health Dept 'studying' spike in COVID numbers to determine if fifth wave has hit

Experts previously warned that the fifth wave of the coronavirus could grip the country as early as next month.

FILE: A Doctors Without Border (MSF) nurse (C) performs a COVID-19 coronavirus test during a Ministry of Health screening and testing drive in the Wolhuter men's hostel in Jeppestown district of Johannesburg, on 14 May 2020. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - While the country has noted a sharp increase in the number of daily COVID-19 infections, the Health Department on Monday said that the trend needed to be observed a little longer before determining if this was the onset of the fifth wave.

Experts previously warned that the fifth wave of the coronavirus could grip the country as early as next month.

South Africa has recorded more than 3,200 new COVID-19 cases in the latest reporting cycle, with the department saying that a sub-variant of Omicron had been dominant in recent infections.

For three consecutive days last week, South Africa recorded more than 4,000 new daily infections, sounding the alarm following a period of significantly fewer cases.

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The Health Department’s deputy director-general, Nicholas Crisp, said that there could a number of reasons for this.

"It may be associated with one of the sub-variants of Omicron, certainly that is what’s dominant at the moment but it also might be just because we are all a bit lax at the moment, we don’t wear our masks so diligently," he said.

Crisp said that they would be watching the data closely, before pronouncing on whether this was indeed the start of the fifth wave.

"We are not sure if this is the variant that’s going to do whatever is going to happen in the fifth wave, what we are seeing at the moment is what we call a flare-up," Crisp said.

He’s urged the public not to wait until it’s too late and to rather get vaccinated now.