A rise in Covid-19 cases is expected around mid-December to early January and could lead to the fourth wave in the country.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said during a media briefing on Friday that while it is difficult to predict with certainty when the fourth wave will come, there are two factors that could drive an increase of infections.
He said when the next wave arrives will be dependent on mainly two issues:
The emergence of a new variant of concern could be a contributing factor to the fourth wave, however, the minister said the genomic surveillance team has not detected new variants of concern.
The movement of people around the festive season could also contribute to a resurgence of cases.
“As we approach the festive season where people are moving around, this makes it urgent that more people should come forward to be vaccinated,” he said.
A national team has been set up to prepare for the inevitable fourth wave as healthcare facilities are preparing contingency plans for oxygen supplies, bed space, equipment, ventilators and personal protective equipment.
Since local government elections took place at the beginning of the month, the country hasn’t experienced a spike in Covid-19 infections, he said, and there were no super-spreading events related to the elections.
“We were assured by the IEC about the preparation of the safety of the elections but we were concerned about the campaigns of the political parties.
“We are pleased to report that not a single province or district has shown signs of a spike in Covid-19 infections, but we continue to monitor the situation with experts from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and the Ministerial Advisory Committee,” he said.
Covid-19 infections in the country over the last four weeks have remained stable with around 200 to 500 new cases per day. The positivity rate has remained at an average of 1%.
Over 23.6 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered to 15.8 million people in the country.
Phaahla said by Monday, 40% of the adult population should have received at least one dose.
“We have enough capacity to administer vaccinations to all adult South Africans and residents and non-South African residents. We aim to reach 70% coverage by December and we are doing our best to encourage South Africans to come forward and get vaccinated.”