Timing, location or scope of third Covid-19 wave can’t be predicted, says Winde
Cape Town - While the data has shown that the Western Cape has overcome the second wave of Covid-19 infections, provincial government says they are preparing for a third wave to save lives and limit its impact.
Premier Alan Winde said that while it’s known that a third wave is likely, they cannot predict the timing, location or its scope.
This was revealed during the weekly digicon meeting where the premier addressed the strides made in vaccine roll-out and the efforts being taken to prepare for a third wave, to save lives and limit the impact of Covid-19 on the livelihoods of Western Cape residents.
“During my State of the Province Address, I outlined our four-pronged response to Covid-19. Rolling out vaccines effectively, procuring our own vaccines, preparing for a third wave, and supporting our scientists researching therapeutics, are key in responding to this pandemic in the coming weeks and months.
“Our Western Cape epidemiologists are part of the MAC (Ministerial Advisory Committee) technical working group who are preparing a response to a possible third wave. While we know a third wave is likely, we cannot predict the timing, location or magnitude of a resurgence,” he said.
He said what they do know is that it could be driven by six key factors:
- Changes in viral transmissibility, which could be brought about by changes in the weather and seasonal changes in behaviour such as the Easter weekend and funeral attendance.
- Behavioural changes among the population, such as the changes in restrictions and adherence to quarantine and isolation protocols.
- Changes in interactions between connected subpopulations, such as movements between provinces and movement between urban and rural areas.
- Changing immunity/reinfection risk, as there is some evidence to show immunity post infection; however, this may wane over time.
- Viral evolution, as new variants like 501Y.V2 could affect viral transmissibility.
- Speed, impact and uptake of vaccinations will also impact severity of a third wave.
“Between peaks, our focus must be on containment, and ensuring that clusters of cases related to a specific place or event do not result in widespread community transmission.
“Once community transmission has been established, containment efforts become ineffective and the focus must then shift to mitigation measures, to reduce the numbers of deaths, ensure that our health-care system does not become overwhelmed and protect our healthcare workers.
“Our containment response must focus on prevention behaviour and increased testing and surveillance, while our mitigation measures include retaining our core field hospital capacity and making use of the additional infrastructure put in place during the first two waves.”
Winde added: “To contain infections, community behaviour remains key to preventing Covid-19. A surveillance and outbreak response is also important to ensure we are able to closely track and respond appropriately.”
The Western Cape's surveillance strategy focuses on three key areas:
- Determining the proportion of and places where previous infections have occurred through seroprevalence testing. The Western Cape has conducted seroprevalence testing among people accessing its services for HIV treatment and antenatal services following the first wave. In February, residual samples from people accessing diabetic, paediatric and HIV treatment were taken which will in the next few weeks give a picture of infections in communities following the second wave.
- Tracking the rate, areas and the molecular characteristics of new infections. Winde said the waste-water testing system is an excellent early warning system they continue to use. Scientists across the country and around the world are also constantly working to identify new variants which may have an impact on the third wave.
- Tracking individual new cases allows the province to trace contacts, advise them to isolate or quarantine and contain cluster outbreaks around cases. In the Western Cape, screening and PCR or rapid antigen tests will be used for these purposes.
Over the past six weeks, data has shown that the Western Cape has recorded significant declines in the number of Covid-19 infections.
The premier said that while the province is “in this space between peaks and waves”, it is vital for everyone to take personal responsibility in ensuring everyone’s safety.
“The country has just moved to Level 1, allowing for more movement and congregation, and in the coming weeks, public holidays and the Easter weekend will see more people moving around and congregating, increasing the risk of infections.
“It is imperative that we are all acting more responsibly than ever before,” Winde said.
“A third wave is likely, but how we act now, in our response as a government, and our behaviour as individuals can help to reduce its impact and save lives.”