South Africa likely to face third wave in winter months, expert says

Source: Radio 702, 18 February 2021, photo credit: Food for Mzansi

Dr Tom Ellman, director of the Southern Africa Medical Unit at the Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), the international humanitarian medical organisation, says there is a possibility of a third wave.

“We were complacent about what was happening towards the end of last year. There was a great reduction in focus on Covid-19 prevention and sometimes we believed that somehow the worst had happened. There is no question that the second wave caught much of the world and certainly South Africa off-guard. We had underestimated the risk and we mustn’t do the same thing again.

“There is a very good chance that the virus is going to bounce back again at some point in the future, we can’t predict exactly when but it’s likely to be in the next few months, over the winter. While we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst. We must prepare for a massive increase in the spread again and we need to apply the lessons we’ve learnt from the last two waves to minimise the impact at the same time upscale access to the vaccine based on need.

“Behaviour plays a huge part (in the spread) but it’s not possible for people to stay on the same level of guardedness and lockdown. There is no doubt that relaxation happens, which means that the risk rises again.

“I addition to that, we see new variants of the virus appearing. Over Christmas, we had a lot of migration, people going back to their homes from the cities. Some have come back from Lesotho where there was a massive wave associated with people returning over the holidays to the country.

“There’s a range of things that can help to predict when there’s going to be a wave. There’s no question whether or not we’re able to predict exactly when we need to ensure we put steps in place and apply the lesson we’ve learnt around the simple approaches to managing and preventing that wave from having the worst that it could.

“I want to reiterate the importance of communities remaining aware that the information that is spread is correct. We need to ensure that trust remains between the government health system and the people. In the absence of everyone being vaccinated preparing means we have an adequate supply of oxygen and our staff have access to essential PPE that they need.
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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.