Healthcare workers at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Johannesburg. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SHARON SERETLO
Healthcare workers at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Johannesburg. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SHARON SERETLO

Gauteng premier David Makhura’s advisory committee on Covid-19 has warned the risk of a resurgence is rising in some parts of the province, and it is vital to step up non-medical interventions to slow transmission of the coronavirus. The situation is particularly worrying in Sedibeng, 50km south of Johannesburg, it said.

"The situation is very fragile at the moment, and we need to be aware of social distancing now more than ever to delay the third wave," said advisory committee member Bruce Mellado, director of the Wits Institute for Collider Particle Physics and convener of a group of experts that uses artificial intelligence to track and model the trajectory of the pandemic.

"With vaccines on the way, every week counts," he said, referring to the imminent launch of the government’s national vaccination programme, which is due to start on May 17.

The group has created a risk index to reflect the likelihood of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. While the risk index for Gauteng as a whole remains low, the group’s analysis shows the risk of a third wave in Sedibeng has been above the "medium risk" threshold for several weeks, and that while still small, the risk is rising in some subdistricts in Tshwane and Johannesburg.

The group also noted a sharp increase in new cases in Emfuleni in the past few weeks, and the test positivity rate in the province has increased to 5%, up from 4% the week before.

Mellado described the situation in Gauteng as one of "unstable equilibrium" that could be shattered by super-spreader events or a sudden change in behaviour that leads to less social distancing.

"It is in a very unstable situation that can transition to a third wave easily," he said, noting that Gauteng has more active cases of Covid-19 and greater mobility of people than it did before its second wave in 2020.

The Gauteng health department issued a statement on Monday night warning of a rise in cases in Sedibeng, which includes Vereeniging, Meyerton, Boipatong, Vanderbijlpark and Sebokeng. It said Johannesburg, Tshwane and Emfuleni had also recorded increases. As of Monday, 1,311 people with confirmed Covid-19 had been admitted to hospital in Gauteng.

The department’s spokesperson Kwara Kekana urged the public to help slow transmission of the virus by maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks and keeping theirhands clean.

"Non-pharmaceutical measures remain the best method of containing the spread of the coronavirus. We all have a part to play to stop the spread."

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