As the country finds itself knee-deep in a second wave of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Wits University’s professor of vaccinology, Shabir Madhi, has called for a ban of poorly ventilated indoor events in an effort to curb the further rise in infections.
“In fact, there shouldn’t be any percentage occupancy irrespective of whether it’s 50%, 20% or 100% in a poorly ventilated area – that leads itself to super-spreader events. And it’s not just about people who have attended that event but it’s about them taking that infection to their households and infecting others,” Madhi explained on Friday morning during a webinar on Covid-19 and the road to recovery hosted by the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
This call came as the health department reiterated its plea on Thursday night for South Africans to be more vigilant as the country confirmed 8 166 new cases, bringing the total cumulative cases to 836 764.
The country also recorded 173 more Covid-19-related deaths, 90 of them in the Eastern Cape and 52 in the Western Cape.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that the country was officially in the second wave of the pandemic.
“It’s important to highlight that four provinces being the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng are key drivers of this new wave,” Mkhize said.
Mkhize also revealed that the country’s positivity rate was at 18% – well above the “ideal” 10% that the Ministerial Advisory Council on Covid-19 recommends.
And more worryingly, the recent uptick in infections was markedly in the 15 to 19-year-olds – which was due to the large number of parties attended by the youngsters recently.
This after a Ballito Rage festival in KwaZulu-Natal – the first of four such festivals attended by matric pupils celebrating the end of their secondary school studies. It was deemed a super-spreader event and linked with more than 100 infections.
The three other such events have since been postponed by event organisers.
“In the US for example, 80% of all infections taking place currently can actually be traced back to super-spreader events. So if we’re wanting to bring this resurgence under control, and minimise a rapid escalation of cases, there should be an immediate ban on mass gatherings in indoor spaces, period,” Madhi said.
Professor Marietjie Venter, who heads the University of Pretoria’s Zoonotic, Arbo and Respiratory Virus programme, said what the Covid-19 pandemic had clearly shown was the need for social responsibility towards those around us.
“So right as we enter the Christmas and festive season, it’s very important that we do not get fatigued and let go of our control of the pandemic,” Venter said.
“We have done particularly well, if you look in comparison with the rest of the world, our epidemic curve had been dropping significantly. Unfortunately, this virus isn’t like others in the past such as Ebola which will show you [physically] when it’s going on,” she said.
“In fact most people will be asymptomatic and those that suffer the most are the high risk groups [the elderly]. So unfortunately our teens and young people cannot be going to big parties during this holiday season, it’s important you think of others around you. It’s not just about you.”