KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. Picture: supplied
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. Picture: supplied

We are not in the third wave yet, says KZN premier

By Jehran Naidoo Time of article published Jun 7, 2021

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Durban: The KwaZulu-Natal province is not in the third wave of Covid-19 infections as yet, Premier Sihle Zikalala said at a media briefing over the weekend.

This despite expert opinions by a team from the Durban University of Technology’s Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology (IWWT).

Zikalala said that there is an early-warning system in place to alert them when a new wave of infections arrives, and urged the public to remain vigilant and to abide by safety regulations.

“So, we continue to monitor trends and signals of a resurgence in the province. Our focus is on identifying clusters and conducting targeted testing in the affected areas; identifying and strengthening contact tracing; intensifying our risk communication drive, with an emphasis on non-pharmaceutical interventions.

“Even though our province has not entered the third wave of Covid-19, we should nevertheless remain vigilant and acutely aware of the potential risk of a resurgence of infections,” the premier said.

But clinical data by DUT’s IWWT team showed that the province may already be in the midst of a third wave.

Led by Professor Faizal Bux and assisted by Professor Sheena Kumari, the team found a spike in viral loads in wastewater since March 30.

"As a metro, the eThekwini Municipality is a good reflection of the pandemic trend in KZN. The team revealed that the viral loads at the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant during this peak period averaged at 4.72 log copies per 100ml.

“However, viral loads over the past four weeks (May 11–27, 2021) averaged at 5.57 log copies per 100ml of wastewater, which was far higher than what was observed during the peak of the second wave.

“This is indicating that eThekwini Municipality may already be experiencing the third wave of Covid-19 infections and that there was a greater number of infected individuals within the community than what is currently being reported," Bux said in a statement last week.

According to the latest information from the Department of Health, the province has a confirmed case count of 340,586 and a death toll of 10,534. The province is experiencing an increase in the number of new cases recorded, the department said.

The eThekwini district accounts for just under half of the total case count provincially, with 160,241 active cases and a death toll of 3,843.

The province currently has 142 vaccination sites and has inoculated a total of 360,451 citizens with the Pfizer vaccine during phases one and two of its roll-out plan.

“Although there is always room for improvement, we must say that we are quite pleased with how the rate of vaccination has been proceeding in the province,” Zikalala said.

Teachers in the province have been prioritised to receive the J&J vaccine this week. However, reports state that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has not yet approved the vaccine for use.

The J&J vaccine was suspended after ingredients used in the vaccine were made in a laboratory that had been contaminated, an FDA investigation report showed.

The FDA is expected to make an announcement on the matter this week.

- African News Agency

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