Pretoria – Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday that all nine provinces of South Africa are in the grip of the fourth wave of Covid-19, and the number of Covid-19 infections has now surpassed the peaks of the three previous waves.
“Today is traditionally the last working day for many industries in South Africa as we head towards the Christmas and New Year period. This is the second festive season we go into, in the middle of a Covid-19 wave. Last December we were in the second wave of Covid-19,” said Phaahla.
“The number of cases in the fourth wave has exceeded the peaks of the third, the second and the first waves, with the weekly average of new infections of more than 37 per 100 000 of the population. At the peak of the third wave it was at 33 per 100 000, while the second wave had 32 per 100 000 and the first wave was even lower in its peak, at 21 per 100 000 of the population in terms of new infections on an average weekly basis.”
Phaahla said the fourth wave, driven by the Omicron variant, has continued to spread rapidly across South Africa.
“In our country, all nine provinces are essentially in the fourth wave even though, technically, the Northern Cape is still entering the fourth wave. The rising numbers tell us that it is a matter of technical description, otherwise it is already in this fourth wave with the Omicron variant,” said Phaahla.
“Gauteng province is reporting the highest number of new cases per day. The numbers have risen rapidly, especially with the coastal provinces, but all nine provinces have seen a rise. As of yesterday (Thursday), Gauteng accounted for only 25% of new infections. This is compared to seven to 10 days ago where Gauteng was accounting for 70-80% of the new infections.”
The minister said the positivity rate had also increased sharply.
He said the “good news” in this fourth wave is that the recovery rate stands at a resounding 91% in South Africa, and in terms of terms of hospital admissions, Phaahla said only around 7 600 people have been admitted, which is very low compared to the third wave.
Phaahla said the majority of patients admitted in the fourth wave displayed “fairly mild” symptoms.
On Thursday, South Africa’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) retained the lockdown at 'adjusted level 1', which is the lowest of the five-tier system of restrictions in the battle against Covid-19.