COVID-19: It’s time to look at the finer details of South Africa’s pandemic picture

Source: Adrian Puren, Michelle J. Groome, Harry Moultrie, The Conversation, 8 September 2021, photo credit: Gov.UK

Almost 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the release of new case numbers is an integral part of the day for many South Africans. Questions like “When will the third wave end?” and “Will there be a fourth wave?” abound and opinions, even among experts, are varied. The challenges in interpreting COVID-19 case and hospitalisation data are enormous. They are likely to become even more complex as SARS-CoV-2 vaccine coverage is added to the epidemiological mix. The Conversation Africa asked three experts whose job it is to keep track of it all – Michelle Groome, Harry Moultrie and Adrian Puren, all at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) – what the data tell us.

The NICD is a specialised division of the National Health Laboratory Service and plays a key role in communicable disease surveillance. It works with other organisations to support the national health department’s management of the current pandemic. For example, the NICD provides routine reports and analyses, epidemic modelling, advisories, surveillance and research related to COVID-19.

The current resurgence driven by the Delta variant finally appears to be subsiding in all nine provinces. There were differences at provincial, district and sub-district levels in the timing and scale of the previous two waves but these differences have been more pronounced in the third wave. The current resurgences in the Northern Cape and Free State started in April and subsided in June and July, before resuming in August.

The patterns seen in these two provinces were likely the result of early initial resurgences driven by the Beta variant, with a later superimposed resurgence driven by the more transmissible Delta variant. In comparison, Gauteng experienced a very rapid and large resurgence in June and July. This is possibly a result of a relatively smaller and truncated second wave combined with the introduction of the Delta variant.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.