South Africa has detected more than 3 000 new COVID-19 infections in one day – for the first time in three months. According to Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, 42 073 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, with 3 221 new cases, representing a 7.7% positivity rate.
This means South Africa now has 1 605 252 confirmed cases since the outbreak. In addition, the country logged 44 deaths on Thursday, which pushes the tally to 55 012. Of the latest fatalities, 19 are from Free State, 13 are from Gauteng, five from the Western Cape, three from KwaZulu-Natal and two each from the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.
“We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the healthcare workers who treated the deceased patients,” said Mkhize.
Meanwhile, the recovery rate now stands at 94.7% after 1 520 878 patients beat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The Minister said the country is currently home to 29 362 active cases.
The figures are based on 11 010 999 tests performed to date. Mkhize announced that the number of vaccinated healthcare workers have now increased to 455 169.
While South Africa has not yet crossed the national threshold for a new wave, the current trajectory is worrisome. This is according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ Acting Executive Director, Professor Adrian Puren, who warned that should it continue its course, South Africa will likely cross the threshold for a new wave in the coming weeks.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Department of Health said, South Africa has not hit the third wave yet, even though the number of COVID-19 cases has been steadily rising. However, the department said the country remains on high alert.
“So we want to assure South Africans that we have not yet hit the third wave, however, we are at risk, and we hence need to be on heightened vigilance as a country,” it said.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the recent rapid increase in the percentage-testing positive for COVID-19 and the seven-day moving average of confirmed cases nationally is a cause for concern.
The NICD noted the overall new cases that have peaked by 46% between the last and previous reporting cycles that ended on 2 May 2021.
Meanwhile, the NICD said the Northern Cape (68%), Gauteng (63%) and Limpopo (47%) provinces top the list of the number of new infections. In addition, the public health institute that provides support to the government’s response to communicable disease threats, said there has been an upsurge in hospital admissions.
Also, COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 18% in comparison to the preceding week.
According to the NICD, four provinces accounting for 81% of all reported fatalities include the Eastern Cape and Western Cape (21%), Gauteng (20%) and KwaZulu-Natal (19%).
“Nationally, however, South Africa has not met the threshold for a new wave,” the NICD stressed. According to a Ministerial Advisory Committee Technical Working Group, a resurgence occurs when the seven-day moving average incidence exceeds 30% of the previous wave’s peak.
“Nationally the seven-day moving average peaked at 18 800 cases on 11 January 2021, equating to a new wave threshold seven-day moving average incidence of 5 600 cases per day.”
Meanwhile, as of 12 May, the national seven-day moving average incidence is 1 950 cases, the NICD explained. However, at a provincial level, Free State province is currently experiencing the third wave.
“While the Northern Cape never met the technical criterion for exiting the second wave, the province has experienced a significant resurgence in recent weeks.”
The institute said five other provinces showing “sustained” increases include Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape. Puren is calling on members of the public to rapidly implement “meticulous” social distancing and adhere to non-pharmaceutical measures, which he believes will lower the transmission and delay the third wave.
“And with the vaccination of elderly people scheduled to commence next week, delaying the third wave will provide more time to vaccinate those most at risk for severe disease, and will thus save lives,” added the Professor.