A nurse in full PPE in the isolation ward of an old age home in Cape Town. File picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).
A nurse in full PPE in the isolation ward of an old age home in Cape Town. File picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

Third wave: how you can help prevent it

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Mar 18, 2021

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CAPE TOWN – With the holidays around the corner, there’s a huge concern that this could become a superspreader event if South Africans gather in large numbers indoors; the perfect setting for transmission.

“The possibility of the next wave remains a reality and it is up to our own behaviour that will help us avoid a surge of the nature that we have recently seen.

“I plead with citizens to adhere to health protocols especially as we approach the Easter holidays,” said Health MInister Zweli Mkhize.

When is the third wave expected?

Although the third wave is expected to start in May and June when we head into the cooler months, Professor Shabir Madhi, executive director of the Wits Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, told the Saturday Star that if people start gathering during that Easter period, the third wave might occur earlier than expected.

Why should you avoid large gatherings?

The second wave of infections in the country were fuelled to a large extent by large gatherings of large concentrations of people, like the rage festivals and nightclubs where social distancing is impossible.

While the Covid-19 variant 501Y.V2 found in country, also played a role in the spread of the virus health experts believe that the surge was being driven largely by behavioural change rather than by the mutation

“Remember that forming a ‘pod' (a quaranteam or a bubble of people who create their own tight-knit social circles) doing anything with other people outdoors, physical distancing, masks and handwashing are your chief defence,” says Professor Francois Venter.

How do superspreader events occur?

It all comes down to how the virus spreads. This virus is predominantly transmitted by close contact droplets. It might be that person you’re sitting with at a table or talking to for an extended period of time at a family gathering or church gathering.

This is why crowded, indoor gatherings are probably the most likely to become super spreader events and should be avoided at all costs.

Potential superspreaders

It is not just family gatherings that can cause these widespread outbreaks. Whatever the situation, though, the more people there are, the higher the risk becomes.

  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Large family parties (like birthdays or holiday dinners)
  • Large Church gatherings
  • Restaurants where patrons sit in close proximity to each other.

How to keep safe over the holidays?

Avoid large gatherings and when choosing to attend a gathering, consider venue and ventilation.

  • Wear your mask at all times
  • Keep your holiday gatherings small and outdoors
  • Open all windows - also on public transport
  • Encourage “at risk” people to stay home

Meanwhile, the Western Cape provincial government says it has set aside R832 million to respond to a possible third wave.

The money will be spent on rapidly expanding testing, providing personal protective equipment, and on ensuring sufficient supply of oxygen and critical care capacity in the Western Cape.

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