Slight drop in Covid-19 cases could show SA has reached peak of unofficial fifth wave

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published May 18, 2022


Less than a month after South Africa first started seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases due to two Omicron subvariants, experts have noticed a slight drop in the number of new cases.

While the Department of Health has yet to announce that the country is in its fifth wave, spokesperson Foster Mohale said there were signs that pointed towards it, with rising positive cases and fluctuating mortality rates.

Senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Dr Ridhwaan Suliman said the number of hospitalisations and deaths had remained low during the recent resurgence.

“Peaked! The fifth wave of Covid-19 infections in South Africa, driven by BA.4 and BA.5 VOCs (variants of concern), has peaked with the test positivity steadily decreasing again: 7-day avg at 23%,” he said in a tweet.

Mohale said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) have not advised that the country has entered a new wave.

“I wouldn't say we have reached a peak since the wave was not declared.

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult to use the previous wave definition, taking into account where we are at the moment in the pandemic. Testing rates are low, reinfections are now being included in the case numbers, decoupling of cases and hospitalisations,” he said.

Previously, experts in the MAC were able to declare whether the country was entering a new wave based on the size of the previous wave.

Mohale said that was no longer the best measure and the Health Department was shifting its focus to examining the severity of disease.

“We don't expect the fifth wave to be like the previous waves which were driven by the new variants because currently no new variant has been detected, apart from the current sub-variants of Omicron,” he said.

The NICD recorded 5 096 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, which represents a 20.9% positivity rate.

Most of the new cases are from Gauteng with 36%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 19%, and the Western Cape with 18%.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the director at the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation said the Omicron subvariants BA.4 & BA.5 have driven the fifth wave but the number of cases might have reached their peak.

“Wave of infections in SA has peaked with, so far, low hospitalisations and deaths,” he said.