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WATCH: SA could be seeing the start of a Covid-19 fifth wave with Gauteng as epicentre

Published Apr 28, 2022

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Three months after South Africa officially exited the Covid-19 fourth wave, an increase in cases over the past week has led experts to predict that a fifth wave could soon be on the horizon.

Infectious diseases expert and head of the division of infectious diseases and HIV medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital, Professor Marc Mendelson, said that while the country is seeing a rise of Covid-19 cases,the threshold for defining a fifth wave has not been crossed yet.

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“It looks like we may be seeing the start of the fifth wave but what we don't know is whether or not this fifth wave will have the same characteristics as we saw in the fourth wave with the Omicron variant,” he said.

On Wednesday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 6 372 new Covid-19 cases. The increase represents a 21% positivity rate.

The majority of new cases are from Gauteng with 49%, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal with 23% and the Western Cape with 14%.

Senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, said a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in Gauteng places the province “once again” as the epicentre of a resurgence.

“While it's too early to read much into the severity of current Covid-19 resurgence being experienced in Gauteng, and South Africa, early indications suggest a similar decoupling effect as with the original Omicron wave due to high levels of population immunity,” he said.

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Mendelson said the increase of cases is currently being driven by the BA.4 subvariant of Omicron.

“We know that [the subvariant] is likely to be able to evade immunity like Omicron did. We are expecting again a large number of cases but all the indications at present show a likelihood of an uncoupling of cases and severity,” he said.

Those who have been vaccinated and infected with Covid-19 are likely to have higher levels of immunity, he added.

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“Both natural and vaccine immunity has been built up and that will protect against severity and hospitalization. We are fairly confident at this moment in time that a subsequent wave now will probably not have the amount of severity that we saw in the second and third wave.”

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