Experts suggest limiting gatherings as SA's Covid-19 positivity rate breaches 10%

It was the first time since mid-November that the positivity rate breached 10% on an upward trajectory, CSIR senior researcher Dr Ridhwaan Suliman said on Twitter

26 May 2021 - 06:00 By nomahlubi sonjica
The daily Covid-19 positivity rate in SA breached a 10% level on Monday, pointing to an increase in transmission of the virus.
The daily Covid-19 positivity rate in SA breached a 10% level on Monday, pointing to an increase in transmission of the virus.
Image: 123RF/ktsdesign

Fears of stricter restrictions are growing as the Covid-19 positivity rate — the percentage of positive outcomes in the tests taken in a 24-hour period — climbed into double figures on Monday.

It was the first time since mid-November that the positivity rate breached 10% on an upward trajectory.

The health ministry has previously raised alarm as the positivity rate climbed  towards the 10% and 12% marks. On Monday night, there were 2,383 new Covid-19 cases from 23,352 tests — a positivity rate of 10.2%. 

A senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr  Ridhwaan Suliman, shared a graph on Twitter on Monday illustrating the country’s positivity rate breaching the 10% level.

“Daily test positivity rate in SA breaches 10% level today (10.2%),” said Suliman, adding that the last time SA's positivity rate was above 10% was in February when the country was exiting the second wave of the coronavirus.

“Previous time SA breached 10% on an upward trajectory was November 17, 2020,” wrote Suliman.

SA's national coronavirus command council (NCCC) was expected to meet on Tuesday to discuss the rising rate of infections.

Wits University vaccinology expert Prof Shabir Madhi said that the increasing positivity meant “there is a heightened transmission of the virus in the community”.

He said the positivity rate increase indicated that the third wave had started, and suggested that large indoor gatherings should be avoided.

“However, in all likelihood, this has already been the case for the North West, the Northern Cape, the Free State and Gauteng, where the positivity rate probably has already been above 10%,” said Madhi.

But he said there would be “limited” value in the country moving to a higher level of  lockdown.

“The main intervention is not to allow indoor mass gatherings, such as social and religious gatherings,” he said.

Dr Owen Kaluwa of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said an increase in number of people testing positive was a point of concern and required everyone to increase vigilance.

“Some of the factors for the increase in new cases could be that people have let their guard down and are no longer following the 3Ws — wearing a mask, washing hands and watching distances.

“They could be engaging in risky events such social gatherings, parties, or funerals without following the regulations,” Kaluwa said.

He said it would be “worthwhile” to move to a higher level of lockdown.

“Given the observed trends in new Covid-19 infections it may be worthwhile to consider a move to level two restrictions to help contain the increasing infections. This should be coupled with increased adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions (hand washing, sanitation, use of masks and social distancing) by individuals,” said Kaluwa.

He encouraged those who have registered to take the Covid-19 to take the jab.

“If it is your turn kindly register on the electronic vaccination data system and get vaccinated as the vaccines are safe and effective and have already helped other countries to reduce hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19,” he said.

BusinessLIVE reported that private hospital group Netcare was bracing for an expected surge in coronavirus infections in Gauteng within the next week.

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