Covid-19: No end yet to state of disaster, while fifth wave looms

Several lockdown restrictions remain in place as government further extends the country’s state of disaster.

While the South African government planned to end the National State of Disaster on February 15, it has been extended for another month.

In an address on Tuesday, Health Minister Joe Phaahla cautioned against rushing to end the state of disaster and added that government will continue to maintain several lockdown restrictions, including the wearing of masks, social distancing and sanitising.

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Prior to this, during the State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa explained that it was his intention to end the National State of Disaster as soon as legislative measures are finalised.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by mid-February around 42% of South Africans were fully vaccinated.

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South Africa’s fifth wave

While Covid-19 infections are remaining well under the 4 000 mark, epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim says the next wave is most likely to occur within the next few months. “We work on a rough basis that we will get a new wave every three months.

The Omicron wave ended about two weeks ago, so that means we now have about three months, and we can predict that we will likely see the fifth wave around the end of April or thereabouts.

“It will be driven by a new variant and it is unlikely that Omicron will be coming back again. The issue is that nobody can predict what the new variant will look like,” says Karim.

On a more positive note, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last Friday that the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year, if around 70% of the world gets vaccinated.

In a media briefing, he said vaccine hesitancy is a contributing factor to being able to move forward. “It’s in our hands. It’s not a matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice,” he said.

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Vaccine mandate

South Africa’s vaccine mandate is a work in progress, says Minister Phaahla, with the process of defining the conditions of the mandate being given the necessary attention.

A number of South African companies and institutions have, however, introduced their own mandatory workplace vaccination policies, and some have been slammed on social media as a result.

Students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) said this week that they fear being deregistered before the end of March due to the university’s vaccination policies. This followed a video doing the rounds on social media which showed a UJ security guard refusing entry to students who were not vaccinated.

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SA records 3 056 new Covid-19 cases

On January 17, South Africa reported 3 056 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the cumulative number of cases to 3 652 024. A total of 22 796 653 tests had been conducted to date.  A further 17 Covid-19 related deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours, bringing total fatalities to 97 955. Recoveries stood at 3 515 196. A total of 30 858 874 vaccines had been administered across the country.

Source: The National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa.

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