Until vaccination is rolled out and the desired herd immunity achieved, experts believe South Africa is likely to be hit by a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, with pockets of rotational increases in infections in different provinces.
According to public health expert Dr Atiya Mosam, the December holidays, with people moving across provinces, the emergence of super-spreader events and alcohol-driven infections triggered the second wave.
She said all these factors became a recipe for the potential disaster SA was experiencing now.
“In terms of the likelihood of a third wave, it is potentially the same we have seen with the first wave … the only way we can ever contain it is to keep people locked in the provinces, which we know is not feasible from the economic point of view,” she said.
Mosam said the third wave was likely to be driven by the fact that with the more infectious new variant, it was more easily spread.
She said with the first variant, even where you were exposed you were less likely to become infected. But this time around, it was more likely that if you were exposed you would be infected.
Mosam said the lesson from the first wave was that human behaviour was a large contributing factor and how alcohol consumption allowed not only for complacency, but also burdened the health system.
“Even though we have these waves, we could have much lower numbers. But we need everyone to adhere social distancing, wear mask and sanitise, stay home if they can and work from home if possible.
“Until we get the vaccine, this is all we can do, to be cautious, adhere to government regulations and guidelines,” she added.
Dr Shakira Choonara, an independent public health practitioner, said a third wave was likely given that government had not procured sufficient vaccines and that the roll-out would be through a phased approach.
“Additionally, [the World Health Organisation] has warned that even with the roll-out of the vaccine, we are unlikely to achieve herd immunity in 2021.
“No one can say for sure when we will be hit by a third wave. It is likely to be within a few months of the second wave … perhaps mid to late 2021,” she said.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said government had already secured 20 million doses of the vaccine to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year.