Home South African Medical experts fear move to Level 1 could trigger fourth wave

Medical experts fear move to Level 1 could trigger fourth wave

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Several medical experts have slammed government’s decision to move the country to adjusted Alert Level 1, saying it could trigger the onset of the fourth wave earlier than predicted.

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SEVERAL medical experts have slammed government’s decision to move the country to adjusted Alert Level 1, saying it could trigger the onset of the fourth wave earlier than predicted.

President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1 last Thursday and announced new regulations that allow up to 2,000 people to gather outdoors.

Experts criticised the move, saying it made no scientific sense to have outdoor gatherings of 2,000 people and indoor gatherings of 750 people.

Senior lecturer from the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University, Dr Jo Barnes said the scientific proof of safety for this move has not yet been presented.

“I am concerned about the risks posed by the significantly increased numbers of persons allowed to attend gatherings, both indoors and outdoors. The scientific proof of safety for this move has not been presented to us. Similarly, what role a curfew from midnight to 4am is serving to help manage the pandemic is entirely unclear. Such rules that make no obvious practical sense, further undermines the trust the public has in pandemic regulations,” she said.

South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) researcher Peter van Heusden echoed Barnes’ sentiments.

“We are seeing both rallies that, while outdoors, are large and seemingly tightly packed … but also politicisation of the vaccine drive. Public health is always a political thing, and in this context, election season is a highly charged time.

“The Constitutional Court clearly disagreed with Justice [Dikgang] Moseneke and the IEC’s approach but that surely cannot mean throwing public health concern to the wind,” he said.

This is as the South African Medical Association (Sama) has warned that the impact of outdoor gatherings will be seen a few weeks from now.

However, Covid-19 advisory committee member and faculty of medicine appointment at the University of Witwatersrand, Professor Ian Sanne said the drive to open up gatherings is motivated by religious gatherings, sport events, education, as much as it was related to the upcoming election.

“This was a decision based on science. The projections are that there will be a fourth wave beginning approximately from mid-November to early December. The only way to avoid a significant rise in infection rates is to vaccinate.

“If Sama or the general public are concerned about increased movement, gatherings and economic activity, then encourage your family, neighbours and employees to vaccinate. We need to reach over 70% of the population that are fully vaccinated,” he said.

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