Third Covid-19 wave could strike by June
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Durban - Experts believe that South Africa should have at least two more Covid-19 waves during the year.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chairperson of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, told the POST this week that he believed the third wave would happen in June and the fourth in December.
Karim, the director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, said it took between three and three-and-a-half months after the first wave ended for the second wave to begin.
“If we look at the second wave and calculate, we could see the third wave by June or July. The severity of the third wave will be hard to predict as this virus is so new and we are still learning about it.
"And if there is a new variant or not, we won't be able to predict either but we can try and lessen the burden of a new wave by continuing to practise social distancing, washing our hands frequently and wearing our masks when out in public.”
He said he did not believe a vaccine would make a difference during the third wave as only about five or 10% of South Africans would be vaccinated by then.
“The vaccine would not make much of a dent because only a small portion of people (health-care workers) will be vaccinated. However, by the fourth and even fifth wave, the vaccine will impact and assist in the fight against Covid-19.”
He said while there were a lot of unknowns about Covid-19, the country was better prepared to deal with it now.
“A few countries have already seen the third wave. Our advantage is that our systems are prepared to deal with this and we know how to handle it.”
Professor Mosa Moshabela, the head of the UKZN coronavirus war room, said it was important to prepare for a third wave now so people were not surprised when it would come, months down the line.
“During the first wave, people were scared. We warned people about the impact and they listened and followed the rules and hence we had a few cases and fewer deaths.
“But during the second wave, people did not take our calls seriously and stopped following the rules and when it was too late for anyone to act, they believed how severe the virus actually is. This time around we need to ensure we are ready and prepared.”
He said in Australia and New Zealand, the countries closed their borders after one positive infection but in South Africa, we need to see a few thousand new cases to implement harder lockdown rules.
“It's so important to prepare from now. We need to go back and revisit how we responded to the second wave and see how we can improve on it. By the time people realised how bad the second wave was, people had already died. We need to focus on not repeating the same mistake.”
Moshabela said he did not believe the fourth wave would impact as badly as the second or third.
“By that time most South Africans would be vaccinated so they would be sort of protected against the virus.”
Professor Ashley Ross, an associate professor and acting executive dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology, said he believed the virus would soon become less deadly and more like the common flu.
“The aim of any virus is to become more transmissible and with time it becomes less dangerous. Years ago, the world was stressing over the swine flu. Now it's something that's another variant of the common cold.
“With the second wave, we have seen that the virus had developed a new strain and it became more transmissible. However, there is nothing to suggest that it became more deadly.
“If you look at the number of infections and deaths in the first and second waves, the percentages of the deaths should be the same. It's just that in the second wave you have a bigger number because more people tested positive.”
He said he was almost certain there would be a third wave. He however believed that it would only hit in six months .
“The vaccine, if it goes as planned, would be able to get to a lot of people and we can create a herd immunity against the virus.”