Risk factors that could trigger a third Covid-19 wave in South Africa: experts

The Gauteng provincial government has warned that the province and country are facing several risk factors which could lead to a third Covid-19 wave.

In a presentation on Friday (19 March), scientists from the Gauteng premier’s advisory committee said that their Covid-19 risk index shows a high possibility of a resurgence in the coming months.

The advisory committee’s Dr Mary Kawonga noted that while the country exited its second Covid-19 wave about five weeks ago, transmission in a number of areas is still ongoing.

She said that some of the potential triggers of a third wave include:

  • Moving to alert level 1 and relaxed restrictions;
  • Travelling due to the long weekend and Easter holidays;
  • Religious and social gatherings which could lead to superspreader events;
  • Family gatherings;
  • Reduced adherence to protocols;
  • Limited and delayed vaccinations;
  • Not enough people vaccinated to create herd immunity.

Kawonga said that there are also other factors, outside of the epidemiological data, which could lead to a third Covid-19 wave as identified by international scientists, including:

  • A slow vaccine rollout;
  • Possible virus mutations;
  • Relaxed preventions;
  • The possibility of reinfections.


“The second wave is over and we are now in the post-wave stage. The cases are not as high as they were eight to ten weeks ago, but they are still not low enough,” Kawonga said.

“Community transmission is still ongoing, the vaccination has started – which has given us hope – but it will not currently be enough to stop the third wave.”

Alongside social distancing, the wearing of masks, and hygiene practices, Kawonga called for the avoidance of non-essential travel and gatherings in the lead up to and during the Easter weekend.

Similar concerns were raised by the Western Cape provincial government in a media briefing it gave on Thursday (18 March).

Western Cape minister of Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo and head of Health Dr Keith Cloete both said that members of the public need to be vigilant, especially as religious and other holidays over the next month result in gatherings of friends and family.

Mbombo said that while the number of active cases in the Western Cape remains low, the number of infections and admissions are starting to plateau after a significant decline.

Using the seven-day moving averages of new infections, confirmed cases have declined by 5%, but admissions have increased by 12%. Deaths in the province have dropped by 17%.

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