Stricter lockdown rules in South Africa suggested as third wave hits

South Africa needs to put stricter lockdown measures in place, especially around indoor and mass gatherings, to limit the spread of COVID-19 amidst rising infections.

‪This is the view of Marc Mendelson, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cape Town.

Speaking to ENCA, Mendelson said indoor and mass gatherings are linked to super-spreader events, which South Africa should guard against.

Stricter rules related to gatherings will not prevent a third wave, but will help to reduce the intensity of the wave.

“We need to ensure that we spend as little time as possible indoors in mass gatherings areas,” he said.

Mendelson called on the government to immediately ban mass gatherings and limit indoor gatherings, including at churches, casinos, and other indoor areas.

He added that adhering to non-pharmaceutical health interventions will help to protect against a severe third wave.

These include social distancing, washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask in public, avoiding large gatherings, and putting people who are sick in quarantine.

He added that unless South Africa got its act together and sped up vaccinations, the country is looking at third, fourth, fifth, and sixth waves.

Mendelson joined numerous other experts, including Professor Alex van den Heever from the Wits School of Governance, in calling for restrictions on mass gatherings.

Van den Heever said winter periods make it difficult to contain the virus, which means that even with restrictions it is challenging to avoid another wave.

If South Africa can address gatherings, however, it will reduce the possibility of a severe third wave.

Bloomberg reported last month that the South African government was considering introducing additional measures to stave off a third wave.

“We have received an advisory from the ministerial advisory council that we have to consider some restrictions and we are now going through that,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

Mkhize added that as the number of COVID-19 cases increased, so did the likelihood of additional lockdown restrictions. This is already happening.

Professor Adrian Puren from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said Gauteng, Free State, the Northern Cape, and North West are experiencing a rapid increase in cases.

He said some areas are in the midst of a third wave or have not properly exited a second wave.

The National Department of Health said that from 3 to 9 May, positive COVID-19 cases increased by 46% when compared with the week before (26 April to 2 May).

To give a better view of the increase in cases in South Africa, Media Hack has provided an analysis of the latest COVID-19 numbers in South Africa.

The chart below shows the time periods the department of health has been comparing.

The larger red bars represent the total number of cases for a week. We can see these increased from 8,593 cases (26 April-2 May) to 12,531 cases (3-9 May), and then 17,133 cases (10-16 May).

Each week runs from Monday to Sunday, with the blue bars showing the daily cases. Typically fewer cases are reported on Mondays and Tuesdays following the weekend.

One of the more important numbers to watch when tracking COVID-19 changes is the number of tests conducted for each positive case.

The lower the number of tests for each positive case found the more people are infected.

The chart below shows the number of tests performed for each positive case has dropped quite sharply over the past few weeks. Each bar is a week.

For the week ending 9 May the number of tests per case was 15. This is down sharply from 26 for the week ending 11 April.

With fewer tests required to return a positive result it means that more of the people being tested are infected.

Much of the talk around a third wave is not so much that the national numbers have shown significant increases, but rather because particular parts of the country have seen increases in new cases.

Looking at the number of new cases reported in the various provinces we can see increases in a few of them.

The notable ones are Gauteng, Northern Cape, North West, and the Free State.

Now read: Third wave concerns – but South Africa cannot afford stricter lockdown

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Stricter lockdown rules in South Africa suggested as third wave hits