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Get your Covid-19 jab and wear your mask indoors – expert advice as infections rise

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While experts say it is too early to determine if South Africa is entering its fifth wave, a marked increase in Covid-19 infections has been noted.

Higher Health’s chief executive, Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia, has urged community members to get Covid-19 booster vaccines as infections rise.

WITH the marked increase of Covid-19 infections in South Africa over the past week, health experts are urging community members to exercise caution.

“If you are in a close congregation – you are in a classroom, laboratory, library, offices – in this winter, where the ventilation is low, wear the mask. Mask wearing inside rooms is critical. It is very, very important. It is one of the most definitive ways of preventing Covid-19,” Higher Health’s chief executive, Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia, told eNCA.

“In this winter, use more blankets but keep your windows open. Check your air conditioners – the cleaning of air conditioners is equally important.”

Most importantly, Ahluwalia said, people should get vaccinated and get their booster shots.

“The fourth and most important advice is, get your immunity boosted timeously. When it is your time for the booster vaccine, do it, because this virus tries to invade when your immune system goes down. This vaccine will boost it up.”

He said although people who have been vaccinated might get minor infections, the vaccine saves them from severe infections and death.

“Mask, absolutely. When you are in close congregations. And please ask others to wear (masks) too,” Ahluwalia emphasised.

While experts say it is too early to determine if South Africa is entering its fifth wave, an increase in Covid-19 cases has been noted with some indicators pointing towards a possible resurgence.

Last week, the executive director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Professor Adrian Puren, said they expected to see an increase in cases.

“An early warning indicator, wastewater detection surveillance shows an increase in Gauteng. However, (there are) no marked change in hospitalisations and deaths which are lag indicators,” said Puren.

On Friday, the NICD reported 4 631 new Covid-19 cases, which represents a 17.8% positivity rate.

In first two weeks of April, the country’s positivity rate ranged from 5% – 9%.

Earlier this month, leading epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim warned people to remain vigilant as the next wave of infections was 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 told journalists at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.

“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, 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,” he added.

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