A Fifth Wave of COVID-19 is Likely, Health Minister Says

Heal Minister Joe Phaahla addresses media and warns of a potential fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (Photo via South African Government Communication and Information System).

The South African Health Minister now believes the country is poised for a fifth COVID-19 wave around the winter this year.

During a briefing on Friday, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said infection rates often increase around the winter time, and he expects the pandemic to continue into the winter of 2022. 

Phaahla said it is important to remain vigilant in COVID-19 precautions like masking, vaccinations and social distancing to ensure the fifth wave doesn't come sooner than anticipated.  

"We know that the virus is still very far from being eliminated," Phaahla said. "There is also expectation that as we get closer to winter, the fifth wave will break out — or even earlier  depending on variants of concern."

The minister said increasing the vaccination rate would reduce the likelihood of the emergence of another variant.

The current vaccination rate in South Africa is 41.6 percent.

The prediction of a fifth wave comes after the Western Cape announced it officially exited the fourth wave of the virus spread last week. 

South Africa as a whole continues to approach the end of the fourth wave with test positivity rates around 10 percent. The end of a wave, according to the Health Department, would be indicated by a rate below five percent.  

"The picture has been that of a stalemate," Phaahla said. "There's no serious decline and yet no worrying rise in infections. Instead of the curve flattening, it has taken the shape of a plateau."

By Ben Rappaport


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