COVID-19: South Africa has not entered a new wave


The recent rapid increase in the percentage testing positive for COVID-19 and the 7-day moving average of confirmed cases nationally, and across all provinces, is cause for concern. Data from the last reporting week (3 to 9 May 2021) showed an overall 46% new case increase in comparison to the previous reporting week (26 April to 2 May 2021) with the Northern Cape (68%), Gauteng (63%) and Limpopo (47%) provinces topping the list. There has been an increase in hospital admissions and COVID-19 related deaths increased by 18% in comparison to the preceding week with the following provinces accounting for 81% of all reported fatalities: Eastern Cape and Western Cape (21% respectively), Gauteng (20%) and KwaZulu-Natal (19%).

Nationally however, South Africa has not met the threshold for a new wave.  According to a Ministerial Advisory Committee Technical Working Group, a resurgence occurs when the 7-day moving average incidence exceeds 30% of the previous wave’s peak. Nationally the 7-day moving average peaked at ~18,800 cases on 11 January 2021, equating to a new wave threshold 7-day moving average incidence of ~5,600 cases per day. As of 12 May 2021 the national 7-day moving average incidence is ~1,950 cases.

At a provincial level, the Free State province is currently experiencing a third wave.  While the Northern Cape never met the technical criterion for exiting the second wave, the province has experienced a significant resurgence in recent weeks. Five other provinces (Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape) are showing sustained increases.

NICD Acting Executive Director, Prof Adrian Puren says that while we have not yet crossed the national threshold for a new wave, the current trajectory is worrisome and should it continue its course, we will likely cross the threshold for a new wave in the coming weeks. “If members of the public rapidly implement meticulous social distancing and adhere to non-pharmaceutical measures, transmission will decline and the third wave will be delayed.  And with the vaccination of elderly people scheduled to commence next week, delaying the third wave will provide more time to vaccinate those most at risk for severe disease, and will thus save lives”, Puren concludes.

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