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Covid-19 third wave not expected to be worse than second wave, says Mkhize

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The Health Department has said the modelling for the third wave was indicating that it would be not worse than the second wave.

Picture: Chris Allan

Cape Town – The Health Department has said the modelling for the third wave was indicating that it would be not worse than the second wave.

Briefing the health portfolio committee on Wednesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the work on modelling for the third wave was under way.

“Everything about it remains uncertain – basically when it is to arise, how bad it is – although there are indications it is unlikely to be worse than the second wave,” Mkhize said.

“Nevertheless, what we would like is a situation where we vaccinate as many people as possible without really being troubled, worrying about the next wave.”

Responding to questions from MPs, Mkhize warned that although they did not have the exact timing for the third wave, it could happen any time.

“We hope it may not be as that bad. No one can say for a fact, we can predict. We are watching out for it and will respond as far as possible as it arises.”

However, Mkhize hoped that there would be strict adherence to health protocols so that the next wave did not come fast and strong.

“If we keep to non-pharmaceuticals interventions, we can keep the wave away.”

Director-general in the Health Department Sandile Buthelezi said in the absence of a new variant, they expected the peak of the third wave to be lower than the second one.

“The time from initial increase in transmission to the peak is on average two to three months. In all age groups, the hospital admissions are projected to be lower than levels in the second wave,” Buthelezi said.

He also said monitoring trends in cases was the best estimator of when a third wave was likely to begin.

“Guidelines to using the Epidemic Explorer will be shared with the provinces.”

Buthelezi said the emergence of a highly transmissible new variant could result in another wave of the same size to the second, or worse.

“Delaying the start of the third wave allows for more time for vaccination,” he said.

Echoing Mkhize, Buthelezi told MPs that the timing of the third wave was uncertain due to uncertainty in the rate at which contacts increased.

“We need to focus on behaviour change. We are alert on other variants.

“In the absence of new variant and fatigue delay, we should get infections to zero. It should afford more time to vaccinate as many people as possible before the third wave,” he said.

Mkhize told MPs that there were concerns with three provinces – Northern Cape, Free State and North West.

“Those three show numbers that are increasing. Those numbers are very low compared to the total number of the population in South Africa.

“We are working on them very closely and trying to reduce the numbers and further spread in those areas,” he said.

Mkhize also noted that there were a number of countries experiencing the third wave already.

The minister also said some people were concerned about what was happening in India, but they monitoring the situation there.

“We don’t yet have an indication that there is a direct risk to South Africa. We will continue to monitor that situation and similar problems in the US and Europe,” he said.

He, however, said the concerns raised with what was going in India were understandable in so far as the number of people infected and dying each day.

“I understand the panic and all of us would be concerned that such situation should not come to our country.”

Mkhize said there was no direct flight from India to South Africa and those coming to the country were tested.

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Political Bureau