The Western Cape is planning for a third wave of COVID-19 and while a resurgence is likely, epidemiologists are not able to predict the exact timing or magnitude of it. Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said data currently shows that we have overcome a significant and serious second wave, however, the work nowhere close to done.
“We must prepare ourselves for a third wave, to save lives and limit the impact of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of our residents,” he said.
The intensified preparation for the third wave comes shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move to Level 1 lockdown.
SIX KEY FACTORS THAT MAY DRIVE THE THIRD WAVE
Winde said Western Cape epidemiologists, who are part of the MAC technical working group, know that the third wave could be driven by six key factors:
- Changes in viral transmissibility which could be brought about by changes in the weather and seasonal changes in behaviour such as the Easter weekend and funeral attendance;
- Behavioural changes among the population such as the changes in restrictions and adherence to quarantine and isolation protocols;
- Changes in interactions between connected subpopulations such as movements between provinces and movement between urban and rural areas;
- Changing immunity/reinfection risk, as there is some evidence to show immunity post-infection. However, this may wane over time;
- Viral evolution, as new variants like 501Y.V2 could affect viral transmissibility; and
- Speed, impact and uptake of vaccinations will also impact the severity of a third wave.
PHASE 2 COVID-19 VACCINATIONS
Preparing for a third wave includes COVID-19 vaccinations and moving onto Phase 2 of the rollout where the general population will start receiving the jab. Winde said it is important that we urgently vaccinate priority categories within the next three months in order to mitigate the impact of a third wave.
“As phase 2 includes many of our most vulnerable including those over 60-years-old, and with serious comorbidities, this phase is important in reducing deaths, and protecting our health system from becoming overwhelmed,” he said.
In order to do this, the Western Cape government is working to develop an efficient delivery system that will roll out vaccines to as many people, as quickly as possible.
“At this stage, the only vaccines currently available in the country are those being used as part of the J&J Sisonke study. Given this limitation of availability, contingency plans to procure vaccines for the country and the province must be explored urgently,” he added.
Winde said a third wave is likely, but how we act now, can help to reduce its impact and save lives.