When can SA expect to enter Covid-19 fifth wave? Phaahla says in May or sooner

21 January 2022 - 10:59
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla shared government's predictions concerning the fifth wave of infections. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla shared government's predictions concerning the fifth wave of infections. File photo.

SA is likely to enter the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections in May or sooner. 

This is according to health minister Joe Phaahla, who warned that a new variant could see the country entering a fifth wave sooner than expected.

Speaking on SABC News, Phaahla said the fifth wave could be worsened by cold weather and the flu season.   

“If there is no variant of serious concern very soon, we definitely would expect a wave somewhere around May, when winter starts. That’s when people start to congregate indoors because of the cold. That’s also when flu season starts,” he said. 

“We expect possibly the middle to end of May, that’s when we expect the next wave. It might come earlier, like we saw last year.”

SA is currently at the tail-end of the fourth wave.

Phaahla’s statement comes a few days after epidemiologist Prof Salim Abdool Karim said the worst of the variants could be over. He said future variants could continue to evolve and spread faster but cause less severe disease.

“What we are likely to see with future variants is that to displace Omicron it’s going to have to be able to spread even faster. Based on what we can see, we can expect that future variants, to beat Omicron, would have to in all likelihood be less severe,” he said.

Vaccine factory

President Cyril Ramaphosa and SA-born health technologies billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong officially opened a vaccine manufacturing facility in Brackenfell, Western Cape this week.

The facility, NantSA, is aimed at producing jabs to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

According to Ramaphosa, the state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing facility is part of a broader initiative to propel Africa into a new era of health science.

“Africa should no longer be last in line to access vaccines against pandemics,” he said.

“We were part of launching the World Health Organisation mRNA hub led by Afrigen. We are marking the establishment of a company that aims to develop next generation vaccines that will reach patients across the continent.”

Ramaphosa said the new entity will collaborate with the mRNA hub by providing RNA enzymes needed to produce vaccines.

“This NantSA facility will make a vital contribution to this mission, complementing the work being done by companies like Aspen, Biovac and Afrigen in SA and other companies in other parts of the continent.

“Our goal is to cover the entire vaccine production value chain by upgrading existing capacity and bringing new capacity on board. Emerging African manufacturers need technology partners to develop their skills base and assist with technology transfer.”