Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

SA has seen a rapid increase in coronavirus infections and deaths in the past week, but has not yet entered a new wave, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Thursday.

The recent rapid increase in the test positivity rate and the seven-day moving average of confirmed cases across all provinces was cause for concern, but there was still scope to delay a third wave with non-medical interventions, said NICD acting executive director Adrian Puren.

There was a 46% increase in new cases in the week to May 9, compared with the previous week, with Northern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo reporting the sharpest increases, at 68%, 63% and 47%, respectively. The number of hospital admissions had not changed, but the number of reported Covid-19 deaths had risen 18% week on week, the NICD said.

SA had not technically met the criteria for a third wave, which would occur when the seven-day moving average of new cases exceeded 30% of the previous wave’s peak, it said. SA’s second wave peaked at a seven-day moving average of about 18,800 cases on 11 January 2021, which meant the threshold for entering a new wave would be a seven-day moving average of about 5,600 cases a day. On May 12, the national seven-day moving average of new cases was 1 950, it said.

The Free State is experiencing a third wave, Northern Cape has seen a “significant resurgence” and five other provinces — Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and Western Cape — showed sustained increases in cases, it said.

Earlier, health deputy director-general Anban Pillay said the test positivity rate had steadily risen in the past five weeks, from 4.1% to 7.2%. “It requires all of us to take the necessary steps to deal with it,” he said.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement issued on Wednesday that SA was on “high alert” for a third wave.

“We know that the main drivers of the new wave will either be the resurgence of new variants and/or fatigue from adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI). To counter these, we are working closely with our genomic sequencing team to ensure that we are able to pick up the new variants earlier, and we are continuously communicating with communities to adhere to NPIs,” he said.

Western Cape’s head of health, Keith Cloete, said the recent rise in Covid-19 cases in the province was cause for concern. Western Cape had recorded a 39% increase in the seven-day moving average of new infections during the past week, which met the criteria for a resurgence. The sharp increase was off a low base, however, and the number of new cases and hospital admissions remained relatively small. There were on average 170 new cases a day in the past week, he said. The rise in new cases was largely driven by cases in more affluent areas, he said.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said he did not believe it was necessary at this stage to tighten restrictions on gatherings and movement to slow transmission of the virus.


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