'This is not the time to relax': Vigilance urged as Covid-19 third wave surges

13 June 2021 - 00:00 By tanya farber
Scientists are re-emphasising the importance of protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing and ventilation as studies continue to point to such measures as the most effective at preventing infection
Scientists are re-emphasising the importance of protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing and ventilation as studies continue to point to such measures as the most effective at preventing infection
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai

Bus tours, weddings and birthday parties are the types of events that have pushed SA into its third wave of Covid-19 infections.

Superspreader events such as Matric Rage were the face of the brutal second wave but this time around seeding is happening mainly in smaller outbreaks, which then lead to community transmission.

In one tragic case, reported by News24, 40 elderly people boarded a bus in Cape Town for a tour to Namibia. On their return, 37 tested positive, and eventually six died.

In Gauteng, two high schools closed this week after pupils and teachers tested positive, and in the Western Cape “several school clusters” seeded “widespread community transmission”, the head of health said.

In Numbers

• 176.1 million - Confirmed global infections to date

• 3.8 million - Official global deaths

The province has also seen recent outbreaks linked to a hunting party, a bachelor party, a wedding and bowling clubs.

Stellenbosch University said all classes would move online until the end of term on Friday after 36 positive test results this week, including several in one residence.

Migrant labour has also been a source of outbreaks as people return from economic hubs to economically less active provinces, according to the Limpopo health department.

In the lead-up to the Free State crossing the third wave threshold, citizens reported that entertainment venues were flouting non-pharmaceutical protocols, and there were outbreaks at schools after the Easter holidays.

Scientists are re-emphasising the importance of protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing and ventilation as studies continue to point to such measures as the most effective at preventing infection.

A study published this week in Physics of Fluids, and led by Stony Brook University in the US, found that “normal breathing indoors without a mask can transport saliva droplets capable of carrying virus particles to a distance of 2.2m in a matter of 90 seconds”.

According to Julius Marcus writing for Harvard Health, this and other science telling us to socialise as little as possible means people must constantly assess the risk of their activities against their desire to be in a group.

“Health is more than just disease prevention,” said Marcus. “For many people, being healthy requires social interactions with friends and family, spending time outdoors, exercise, physical intimacy, and other pleasures of life.

“But when making decisions about social contact during the coronavirus pandemic, you will need to weigh the risk of the interaction against the potential benefits to overall health.”

Alex Welte, a researcher at the University of Stellenbosch, advised that “all indoor gatherings except [with] those [people] you live with” should be avoided.

She said “parties, weddings, date nights and unnecessary long rides in buses and planes” should be “cancelled or postponed”, while any meetings with friends should happen outdoors and that all should “keep a distance” and “wear masks”.

She added: “We hold tens of thousands of South Africans’ lives in our hands, like water. This is not the time to relax our fingers.”


subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.