South Africans are urged to keep adhering to the government’s Covid19 regulations and take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
South Africans are urged to keep adhering to the government’s Covid19 regulations and take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

There’s low risk of third wave in SA but don’t let your guard down

By Chulumanco Mahamba Time of article published Apr 13, 2021

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Johannesburg - There is a low risk of a third wave of Covid-19 in South Africa, however, the country is still highly vulnerable, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithm designed by Wits shows.

Wits announced on Monday that an AI-based algorithm the university designed in partnership with iThemba LABS, the Gauteng provincial government and York University in Canada, showed that there was a low risk of a third infection wave of Covid-19 in all provinces of South Africa.

The university said the AI-powered early detection system functioned by predicting future daily confirmed cases, based on historical data from South Africa’s past infection history.

Wits added that the AI-based algorithm worked in parallel and supported the data of an already existing algorithm based on more classical analytics.

“Both of these algorithms work independently and are updated daily. The existence of two independent algorithms adds robustness to the predictive capacity of the algorithms,” it said.

The data of the AI-based analysis is published on a website that is updated daily.

“The current data shows us the risk for a third infection wave of Covid-19 is small across most of the provinces in South Africa, but we still remain highly vulnerable,” said director of the Institute for Collider Particle Physics at Wits, Professor Bruce Mellado.

He added, however, that it was crucial that South Africans continued to adhere to the government’s Covid19 regulations and take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

The university said the emergence of infection waves was driven by circumstances that were difficult to predict and therefore to control.

“In this complex environment, early detection algorithms can provide an early warning to policymakers and the population. Early detection algorithms are able to issue an alert when the data displays a significant change that is consistent with the advent of a new wave,” it said.

Mellado said while algorithm-based predictions could never be 100% accurate, he was confident that the model presented “very good” predictions over at least a two-week period.

“AI technology provides us with invaluable potential to develop early detection and alert systems that are highly needed for rapid and dynamic decision-making under risk and uncertainty under the current pandemic,” said Ali Asgary, professor of disaster and emergency management and associate director of York University’s Advanced Disaster, Emergency, and Rapid-response Simulation.

Wits added that AI was very effective in navigating through complex problems with a large number of parameters and dimensions, while at the same time learning from the data. The data hides within itself a wealth of information that AI can extract efficiently.

“Our team’s development of an early detection algorithm for the third wave speaks to the power of AI to generate data-based solutions to highly complex problems,” Mellado said.

The Star

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