A worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) uses tweezers to pick up an ampoule containing a component of the COVID-19 vaccine. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
A worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) uses tweezers to pick up an ampoule containing a component of the COVID-19 vaccine. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Second wave of Covid-19 ’inevitable’ SA’s top scientist predicts

By Karen Singh Time of article published Oct 20, 2020

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Durban – A second wave of Covid-19 infections is inevitable as taverns and nightclubs become super-spreaders of the virus.

The warning was issued by Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19.

Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, was speaking on SAfm on Monday.

This follows Covid-19 super-spreader events across the country, including more than 80 people being infected at a bar in Cape Town, including 37 matric pupils. At Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape, close to 30 students tested positive for the coronavirus following a two-night drinking spree earlier this month.

Abdool Karim said with the easing of lockdown regulations, people had become complacent, and were tired of wearing masks and social distancing.

He said it took just one infected person to create a super-spreader event at mass gatherings.

“We need to get people to change their behaviour,” said Abdool Karim.

He made reference to the UK, US, South Korea and Spain, as some of the more than 60 countries to experience a second wave.

Abdool Karim said he was optimistic SA could reach a stage where people were able to live with the virus, resulting in low-level transmissions of between 1 000 and 2 000, or below, a day.

“We have a situation where taverns and nightclubs are becoming a source of the virus spreading, and if that happens then we are in for it. It makes it inevitable that we will have a second wave,” he said.

Lucky Ntimane, convener of the South African Liquor Traders Council, said the council was concerned about reports of various liquor traders not adhering to the Covid-19 regulations governing the sale of liquor.

He said outlets that failed to follow basic Covid-19 protocols in their business operations were putting unnecessary focus on the industry.

“Outlets should operate in line with their licence conditions and Covid-19 regulations, and failure to do so leaves us with no choice but to call for necessary laws to take their course.”

Ntimane said the liquor industry remained committed to working with the government in creating a social contract. “This will ensure that we partner to fight the Covid-19 pandemic together, as we protect lives and safeguard livelihoods in this important sector,” he said.

He said the council was in talks with law enforcement officials in the affected provinces to ensure liquor outlets not adhering to regulations face the consequences.

Abdool Karim said even though SA was approaching the summer season and sunlight was known to kill the virus to some extent, the behaviour of the public was the main factor that contributed to the virus’ spread.

With the festive season approaching and more travel expected, Abdool Karim said a more local approach may be needed to mitigate the spread by, for example, closing the provincial borders – a decision that would not be taken lightly.

As at October 18, the Health Department had recorded 703 793 Covid-19 cases, with 1 662 new cases identified since the last report, while 18 471 people had died.

The Mercury

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