One of the leading voices of the COVID-19 pandemic response in South Africa is now banging the drum for tougher lockdown restrictions. Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a former government advisor, concedes that Mzansi is ‘effectively in a third wave’ – and he reckons the only way the nation will take this threat seriously is by ‘moving out of Level 1’.

Professor Karim calls for ‘heightened alert phase’

There are high-level Cabinet meetings taking place this week, and amending the lockdown alert level has reportedly been discussed. The sharp rise in new coronavirus cases means that tighter lockdown laws are now an inevitability.

At Level 1, there is a relative degree of freedom – but large gatherings and indoor events are once again driving our case numbers in the wrong direction. Several provinces are already at the mercy of the virus resurgence, which is likely to be compounded by the discovery of the so-called ‘Indian variant’, and the onset of a cold winter season.

Level 1 lockdown laws ‘no longer enough’

For Professor Karim, there needs to be mitigation. The third wave is set to reach its peak by the end of next month, he claims, and hospitals need to be prepared for a ‘surge in patients’. Therefore, the Level 1 bubble is set to burst.

“People have become complacent – we need to raise the alert level for people to understand the situation is no longer Level 1 but we are now in a situation that is different. And I think that is important to send that signal. In effect, we are now in the third wave – of which we expect to get a peak by June.”

“Secondly, is that we have to do something about reducing the size of gatherings because that can speed up the transmission by creating super spreading events, and thirdly, is we need to go and prepare our hospitals for the coming surge. We have now crossed the threshold for ‘low transmission’, which is under 3 000 cases per day on average.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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