The Covid-19 third wave: safety protocols, timelines and being prepared

24 March 2021 - 07:20
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the timing and ferocity of the Covid-19 third wave will depend on people's behaviour. File photo.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the timing and ferocity of the Covid-19 third wave will depend on people's behaviour. File photo.
Image: GCIS

The health department says it has no mathematical models to help it establish when South Africans can brace themselves for the third wave of Covid-19 infections, but has warned against flouting safety protocols during Easter.

“We should all learn from the way we managed the festive season and go into Easter as citizens with the same determination to stick to health protocols [and avoid] crowding, social distance, sanitise and wear masks,” spokesperson Lwazi Manzi told TimesLIVE on Tuesday.

“With a concerted effort, we can exercise our own agency and keep transmissions low.”

As of Monday, the number of cumulative Covid-19 cases is 1,538,451.

Experts have warned the third wave of Covid-19 infections is looming in SA.

Here's what you should know:

Vaccinations

Last week, deputy health minister Joe Phaahla said the government would not achieve its target of vaccinating 1.5 million health-care workers by April. He said it foresees a shortfall of more than 300,000, with only 700,000 front-line workers expected to receive the life-saving jab at the end of April.

South African began its first phase of vaccine rollouts on February 17.

Prof Glenda Gray, the co-lead investigator in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, told the Sunday Times 500,000 health-care workers would receive the vaccine provided the process runs smoothly.

As of Friday, 182,983 health-care workers had been vaccinated, according to the department of health.

Zweli Mkhize's warning 

The possibility of a third and fourth wave cannot be excluded as this has happened in other countries, but human behaviour is what will determine when SA gets the next waves. This will also determine their severity.

This is what the minister told MPs two weeks ago during a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly.

“The risk of third and fourth waves can never be excluded because this was the trend globally and no-one can say that until the majority of people are vaccinated that we are safe from any resurgence,” said Mkhize.

The minister said SA aims to vaccinate 14 million people by the end of the year.

When will the third wave hit?

Prof Marc Mendelson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Cape Town (UCT), told Sunday Times Daily it's possible that SA might get the third wave around May and June though there is no definite answer to what he described as a “million-dollar question.”

Chair of the coronavirus command council Prof Abdool Karim said analysis from SA's first and second waves and other countries reveals there is “generally three months” between each wave.

His prediction about when SA might get the third wave is between June and July. He said this will be influenced by behavioural changes during winter.


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