The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, has observed an increase in the 7-day moving average for new COVID-19 cases and the percentage testing positive in Gauteng, particularly in Tshwane amongst 10 – 29 year olds over the past week. Additionally, the NICD has recently identified a cluster amongst the 20 – 44 age group at an institute of higher education in Tshwane. “We are monitoring these trends to see if these increases persist,” comments NICD Acting Executive Director, Prof Adrian Puren. He continues, “Localised increases in case numbers (clusters) are not unexpected, however, it is hard to say whether the increases indicate the start of a widespread resurgence.”
Previous waves have been driven to a large extent by the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants, Beta in the second wave and Delta in the third wave. “Genomic sequencing in South Africa has, to date, not yet detected the emergence of any new variants which are making up an increasing proportion of the sequences,” Puren adds. There are some delays inherent in molecular sequencing, due to transport of samples and the time taken to process them. Regardless of potential new variants in the future, the importance of non-pharmaceutical interventions remains unchanged and individuals are encouraged to wear masks, practice hand hygiene, maintain social distancing and to gather in well ventilated spaces.
At present the National Department of Health reports that 41% of adults in South Africa have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 35% fully vaccinated. “It is difficult to predict the magnitude and timing of a potential COVID-19 resurgence, however, we implore the unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine, especially the elderly and those with comorbidities,” stresses Head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response, Dr Michelle Groome. She furthermore adds that vaccination and prior infection provide good protection against developing severe disease, and while there might be an increase in future case numbers, the number of hospitalisations and deaths are expected to be less severe in comparison to previous resurgences.
“As the endemic endures, I would like to reassure the public that the NICD continues to acutely monitor trends in case numbers, positivity rates and hospitalisations,” Puren concludes.
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Senior Communications Manager
National Institute for Communicable Diseases