'We are in the 3rd wave. Buckle up' - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's SOS to provinces

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Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize
Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize
Photo: Lulama Zenzile/Gallo Images/Die Burger
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warned provinces that the country is in the third wave of Covid-19.
  • He further warned that numbers would not go down unless provinces started "intensive containment measures".
  • Government scientists who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed Mkhize's communication with regard to rising positive cases.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned provinces that the country is currently in the third wave of Covid-19. 

In communication that was widely distributed on Wednesday, Mkhize said: "Kindly note that the Covid-19 positive cases are rising rapidly. For all intents and purposes, we are in third-wave even if not fitting in technical definition. The numbers will no longer go down other than if we start intensive containment measures."

He encouraged provinces to intensify response programmes. 

"We need to meet frequently to see how to support each other. Contact tracing and quarantine is the mainstay of our response. It is NOW and NOT LATER."

In the latest statistics sent to Mkhize, and seen by News24, the country recorded 2 759 new cases as of Wednesday.

The country recorded 1 548 new cases and 71 deaths on Tuesday. 

Cases in the country have been rapidly increasing with the Free State confirming last week that they were already in the third wave of Covid-19. Gauteng said that, according to its modelling data, a third wave would hit the province in a few weeks from now. 

READ | South Africa’s most vaccine-hesitant people speak Afrikaans, a new study says

Government scientists who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Mkhize's message with regard to the rising positivity rate - the number of Covid-19 tests done that return a positive result -  which has been described as the most reliable early warning metric to track the next wave of infections.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, in a previous advisory, set out that a new wave would be declared if the seven-day moving average of new cases gets above 30% of the average at the peak of the previous wave.

South Africa's second wave peaked in mid-January 2021, with a seven-day moving average of approximately 18 000 cases per day.

For a new wave to be declared nationally, the seven-day moving average of new daily cases would have to rise above 5 500 cases. According to reports by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the current daily average over the past seven days was approximately 1 600 cases per day. 

READ | Covid-19: City of Tshwane sees infection rates nearly double in last 7 days

However, according to the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC) Epidemic Explorer Dashboard almost every single one of the 52 health districts in the country have triggered "Response" alerts. This alert is triggered when a district shows a 20% or higher increase in new cases compared to the previous seven-day period.

The latest NICD Weekly Covid-19 Testing Summary report, published on Friday, showed that the percentage of tests returning positive results increased to 6% for the week beginning 25 April - an increase from 5.3% the previous week (week beginning 18 April).

The percentage positive rate reported by the NICD in its weekly reports saw a small weekly increase since the first week in April where it was hovering between 4% and 5% for several weeks.

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