- The National Institute for Communicable Diseases says Gauteng will be in the Covid-19 fourth wave on Friday.
- New Covid-19 cases are driven by the new Omicron variant.
- Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the National Coronavirus Command Council will meet soon to decide whether to implement additional lockdown restrictions.
Gauteng, which has been seeing a huge increase in daily new Covid-19 cases, is expected to be in the fourth wave on Friday.
Dr Michelle Groome, head of the division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said according to their modelling, the province will officially be in a fourth wave on Friday.
"Nationally, we are seeing a sustained increase in all provinces except the Northern Cape. Gauteng, with the update of the metrics today (Friday), is going to officially be in the fourth wave," Groome said during a national health department briefing on Friday morning.
Dr Ntsakisi Maluleke, public health medicine specialist at the Gauteng Department of Health, said the positivity rate in the province was 19% at the beginning of the week and had climbed to 34%.
On Thursday, Gauteng recorded 8 280 of the 11 535 new cases reported in the country.
Groome said while there had been "a tremendous increase" in new cases in Gauteng, there were also increasing cases in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.
Another worrying factor, Groome said, was that the reproduction rate in all provinces was higher than one.
"This means each person will infect more than one other person. It is very high in Gauteng, at two. This is the highest we have even seen since the start of the pandemic."
The new Omicron variant has been driving new cases. While it was too early to say, Groome said preliminary data indicated that the variant was more transmissible.
"There is evidence that it is more transmissible and that there is some immune escape. It's not necessarily related to severity. We cannot make any calls on severity just because it is more transmissible. It's early days. We need to have more information in the next two to three weeks. All we need to do is prepare," Groome said.
She said they expected vaccinated people to likely have less severe disease.
Dr Waasila Jassat, a public health specialist at the NICD, said hospital admissions were increasing nationally in both the private and public sector.
That was corroborated by Maluleke, who said 1 351 people were currently in Gauteng hospitals with Covid-19.
"A variable that we have been tracking in recent times is the vaccination of our in-hospital patients. Data is still being collected. Of the ones that have reported their status, 23% of current in-hospital patients are said to be unvaccinated. And, 2% are vaccinated," said Maluleke.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said when the National Coronavirus Command Council met last week, it agreed to have a follow-up meeting in a week to assess the situation further. The council will discuss whether additional lockdown restrictions were needed because of increasing case numbers.
"At this stage, one would not want to pre-empt. All of us, individually and collectively, could reduce the level at which regulatory interventions can be required."
This, he said, can be done by avoiding crowds, wearing masks and vaccinating.
"We can manage this fourth wave. We can manage Omicron. We can still have a reasonably successful festive season. We can still manage this in a way that government doesn't have to invoke serious restrictions over the next few days," he added.
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