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Covid variant Pi and the fifth wave: What you need to know from Prof Abdool Karim


Globally-renowned epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim said we now have to be ready for variant Pi which will set in around early May, and it will be spreading much faster than Omicron

Professor Salim Abdool Karim. File picture

LEADING epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim has warned community members to remain vigilant regarding the Covid-19 pandemic as the next wave of infections is likely to set in around May, and be driven by a new variant, likely to be called Pi.

“That fifth wave will need to be driven by the new variant. That new variant is likely to be Pi. The Pi is the next letter in the Greek alphabet, and it comes after Omicron. We now have to be ready for Pi. We have to anticipate that we are likely to see Pi probably in early May and we now have to make sure we have the tools to deal with it when it comes along.”

Abdool Karim was addressing journalists at Rhodes University in Eastern Cape where his wife, epidemiologist Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, was conferred a degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) (honoris causa).

“What we can say is, Pi is going to spread faster than Omicron. We know it has to spread faster because if it cannot spread faster than Omicron then it will not be able to displace Omicron. Pi will come to exist because that new variant spreads faster.”

He said indications are that Pi will not only spread faster, but will infect more people quicker.

“When I say it will spread faster, I mean it will infect more people more quickly and therefore the pressure on the hospitals and so on will be over a shorter period. That is the situation we can expect.”

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the end of the National State of Disaster.

Abdool Karim welcomed the decision, and added that this is the “best time” to ease restrictions because of the current low infection rate.

“This is the best time to have your graduations, to have your parties. It is the safest time because we have very few new cases. In the whole country of 60 million people, we have a thousand cases. That situation is not going to last long. This is the time to do many of the things you wanted to do. Come May, especially the middle of May, we are likely to see the likelihood of cases starting to rise,” he said.

“When the cases rise, remember your preventative measures – social distancing, mask-wearing, avoid indoor environments – all those things become important. You do not have to do all of those things all of the time. You adjust what you doing based on the cases.”

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