Gauteng must brace for third Covid-19 wave, advisory committee warns
Religious and social gatherings during Easter have the potential to be major super-spreader events: committee chair Dr Mary Kawonga
The Gauteng premier’s advisory committee (PAC) has warned of a third wave of Covid-19 infections in the next few months due to the slow start to the vaccination programme and relaxed alert level 1 restrictions.
Committee chair Dr Mary Kawonga told a Gauteng provincial command council media briefing that the second wave ended five weeks ago but the province was not out of the woods. The briefing came ahead of a long weekend and the upcoming Easter weekend.
“We anticipate a resurgence and probable third wave in the next few months. Weekly cases and deaths remain higher than before the second wave,” she said.
Kawonga said the risk of viral spread remained, and even though vaccinations had started, the numbers were too few to impact the pandemic’s trajectory.
“It looks like the numbers have stopped dropping and this indicates a new equilibrium has been reached, and that a third wave may take off due to super-spreader events,” she said.
She said they have witnessed an increase in new cases in the past week, from 2,090 cases to 2,444 (a 17% increase), which is a statistically significant deviation.
“This is a source for concern,” the PAC said.
Sedibeng has been identified as one of the areas of concern, where two months past the peak infections should have dropped below the medium risk line.
“The West Rand is barely below the medium risk line. Emfuleni in Sedibeng is experiencing relatively fast growth in the number of cases,” the PAC said.
The council warned that the move to lockdown level 1 ahead of a period with long weekends, including Easter, was a cause for concern.
“Millions of people will remain unvaccinated before the holidays and during the cooler winter months when people are more indoors,” the PAC said.
Kawonga warned that religious and social gatherings during Easter had the potential to be major super-spreader events.
“Family gatherings during Easter and smaller gathering mixing members from different households are also a risk.”
The PAC further warned that the vaccination rollout, which will start after the Easter holidays and close to winter, will be too late to prevent a third wave.
Gauteng premier David Makhura said the possibility of a third wave is very high.
“Covid-19 is still in our midst and will remain with us for some time. We might be in alert level 1 to open up social and economic activity, but let us continue behaving like we are in alert level 3,” Makhura said.
Makhura called on people to adhere to the restrictions and health protocols in all public places and at all gatherings.
“Let us continue to avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places and close contact situations where possible. Protect yourself and those around you,” he pleaded.
He said currently 1,437 patients were admitted in private and public hospitals, of which 390 are in ICU and high care, and 1,047 were in general wards.
“Post-Easter we are going to have more people infected because of travelling.”
He said Gauteng started implementing phase 1 of the vaccination programme through the Sisonke Early Access Study on February 17 at the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko Academic hospitals.
“Four sites were added on March 1 (Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Netcare Milpark and Lenmed Ahmed Kathrada Private Hospitals). Mediclinic Medforum Hospital has been added as a new site."
Makhura said the vaccination programme is conducted in three public and three private health-care facilities for targeted health-care workers.
The province has vaccinated 43,915 health-care workers from both private and public health facilities as of March 18.