SA’s ‘unpredictable’ third wave of Covid-19 shows no sign of abating

27 August 2021 - 12:04 By claire keeton
SA's third wave of Covid-19 infections could drag on until the fourth wave begins around November, says health minister Joe Phaahla. Stock photo.
SA's third wave of Covid-19 infections could drag on until the fourth wave begins around November, says health minister Joe Phaahla. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/perig76

SA’s third wave of Covid-19 infections is dragging on longer than expected and behaving differently from the first and second waves, health minister Dr Joe Phaahla said on Friday.

“This third wave is continuing to behave in a very unpredictable manner ... sometimes it looks as if it is going steeply downwards and then it rises again. What this means is that many of us are not observing the prescribed precautions,” Phaahla said at a media briefing.

From July 9 there was a steep downward trend in the national curve, but on August 13 “the cases started to trend upwards again [and] this fluctuation can also be seen in the individual provinces, not only the national curve”.

The Western Cape, Northern Cape and Free State are struggling to get infections down, but Gauteng has had a steady downward curve.

On average, hospitalisations are down by 3.3% and new cases have dropped by 2.2% over the past seven days.

“We welcome any reduction in hospitalisations as health workers are under pressure and need breathing space,” Phaahla said.

The small decrease in new cases excludes the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and the Free State, where infections are still rising.

The Western Cape and Northern Cape have higher positivity rates than the national average of 19%, at 27% and 30% respectively.

“The Northern Cape has remained high relative to its population over a prolonged period. Analysts say that it never came out of the second wave and went straight into the third wave,” Phaahla said.

Many young people between 10 and 19 years old were testing positive, he said, linking this to social activities.

“Some can be traced to schools, but the indications are that social activities have a role to play. Young people are engaging in parties without precautions. What this means is that the third wave is dragging out longer.”

This battle against Covid-19 can be won if we work together and observe protocols, and take our vaccine.
Dr Joe Phaahla

By Thursday night, 80,826 people had died of Covid-19 — 357 of them that day.

Phaahla warned: “By the time of the fourth wave, possibly driven by a new variant, it may find us still at the tail-end of the third wave, which will mean that our health facilities and especially our health workers will have not had much rest.”

He urged South Africans to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds and social distance.

“This battle against Covid-19 can be won if we work together and observe protocols, and take our vaccine. Towards the end of the year we will have a fourth wave and we want to make sure all South Africans are protected.”

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