President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night issued a stern warning to South Africans that the third wave of Covid-19 infections remains a serious threat, even as he announced the relaxation of the country’s lockdown to alert level 1.
“The threat of a third wave is constantly present, as is the threat of yet more new variants,” Ramaphosa said during his televised address to the nation to provide an update on the risk adjusted strategy to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
He was referring to the 501Y.v2 variant which was largely responsible for driving the spike in infections in South Africa during the second wave of the pandemic.
“Because the new variant is transmitted more easily, it has the potential to infect more people, place a greater strain on our health system and lead to a greater loss of life,” he said.
“Therefore, social distancing is even more critical. Wearing a mask and avoiding crowds is even more important. And it is now even more important that we all download the Covid Alert SA mobile app onto our cellphones.”
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the co-chair of the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on Covid-19, had previously warned South Africa could expect a third wave of infections at the onset of winter.
“Drawing from experience and information gathered throughout the onset of Covid-19 in the country, we know a third wave will occur and it will hit in about three to four months which is around June and July,” Karim told the Sunday Tribune.
“But between May and June we expect to discover new variants, and the greatest fear is that the new variants would mutate to bypass immunisation which would undermine all our efforts and the third wave would be devastating,” he said.
Karim also said the rollout of vaccines would have little impact in preventing the expected third wave.
South Africa on Saturday received a second batch of 80 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and Ramaphosa on Sunday night detailed the government’s efforts to procure around 42 million vaccine doses by the end of this year.
He also outlined plans to increase the number of vaccination centres in the second phase of the rollout, which is expected to start between late April to early May. IOL