SA faces ‘many more COVID infections’

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South Africa now looks all but certain to head into its fifth wave of COVID just in time for winter, as new cases of the virus continue to increase. The past week has brought some rapid rises, and the spread of Omicron sub-variants are to blame. However, bringing back previous lockdown restrictions doesn’t look like an option.

Brace for ‘many more infections’, South Africa told

Shabir Madhi is a vaccinologist from Wits University. He has been analysing the data over the weekend, and in his expert opinion, a resurgence of COVID doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for us all to panic.

He believes that there is more than enough immunity across the country to help keep hospital occupancies low, and ensure that death rates do not spike to unbearable levels. According to Madhi, the government now needs to do more to get as many vulnerable people vaccinated as possible, even if they’ve previously been infected.

“It’s likely will experience many infections, more so in people not infected during Omicron wave, but also some reinfections after Omicron if occurred sometime ago. Infections are least likely if you have hybrid immunity, but it’s unlikely that even a new variant could evade T cell immunity, which protects against severe COVID.”

“Omicron wave accounted for only 5% of COVID deaths since start of pandemic (>90% in unvaccinated). With BA4, there will likely be more decoupling. The focus in SA context, unlike countries able to truly minimise infections en masse, is about minimising severe disease. We need to get beyond the 65% of older than 50 vaccinated to at least 90%.”

Shabir Madhi

Calls to bring back restrictions dismissed by experts

Of course, when that line on the graph starts shooting upwards, some people get a bit jittery. Earlier this month, South Africa lifted its COVID restrictions, as outdoor mask wearing and closed stadiums became a thing of the past.

This may have helped infections increase, but Mzansi is also heading into winter, where COVID numbers were predicted to rise regardless. Madhi explains that bringing restrictions back, therefore, would be an ignorant move.

“There’s no need to panic as we live with the virus. Any pretence that we achieve much with regulations aimed at preventing infections is dismissive of what transpired in SA, and agnostic to the detrimental impact on SA which disproportionately affected the poor.”

Shabir Madhi

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