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’We need to review how we are dealing with the pandemic’

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While another Covid wave is anticipated, the consistent decrease in cases calls for a review of the current Level 1 restrictions, according to head of public health surveillance at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

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A COVID-19 fifth wave is likely to arrive in the South African winter months based on data from previous waves, however, experts say that it could be less severe with lower hospitalisations and deaths.

While another wave is anticipated, the consistent decrease in Covid-19 cases calls for a review of the current Level 1 restrictions, according to head of public health surveillance at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Dr Michelle Groome.

“It is most likely that we will have a fifth wave, but it’s very difficult to predict. We have seen these kinds of waves last year towards autumn or winter with the peak in June. We may see high numbers of infections but low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths,” she said during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Covid-19 cases in the country have decreased by 18% this week compared to the previous week. On Tuesday, 1,461 new Covid-19 cases were reported, which represents a 5.2% positivity rate.

“I think we are entering into a different phase of the pandemic. We are moving towards the mitigation phase, trying to contain the virus and live with Covid. It’s time where we would need to review how we are dealing with the pandemic,” said Groome.

The Department of Health said that a number of recommendations in terms of lessening of restrictions had been proposed to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

Graphic: National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

On Tuesday, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced that the national state of disaster has been extended until 15 April.

Groome said that during the fourth wave, which was dominated by the Omicron variant towards the end of 2021, there were few restrictions in place and the country managed to have fewer hospitalisations and deaths.

“I think we can reduce some of these restrictions,” she said.

“We know what the high-risk situations are – where it’s mostly indoors, when people congregate indoors without ventilation, so something like outdoor mask-wearing really could be done away with,” she said.

“It’s still important for the elderly and those with underlying comorbidities to take extra care in terms of making sure you are up to date with the vaccinations and boosters that are being offered.”

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