Epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim says a new COVID-19 variant should be expected as the country heads for a fifth wave. This comes as Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness announced the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the end of the National State of Disaster.
Professor Karim says while it cannot be said with certainty, based on how the virus mutates, a new variant is highly likely.
“The WHO is naming the new variants based on the Greek alphabet. So we can expect that the next variant should be called PI. How is Pi going to look like? Well, we don’t know because it doesn’t exist yet. But we can expect Pi to actually exist and to spread faster than Omicron. So if it doesn’t spread faster than Omicron it won’t be able to displace Omicron. We know it will be a faster-spreading variant – in other words, it will infect more people more quickly.”
‘Next wave in May’
Professor Karim says while it’s difficult to predict the time frame for the next wave driven by the new variant, he expects it around May.
“When it comes to timing it’s very difficult, I think we have seen in SA that there’s a roughly 3 months gap between each of our waves. If that trend continues, we can expect to see the next variant and the next wave start somewhere in the half of May.
Meanwhile, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Monday has reported 553 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa. This brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3 732 628.
The increase represents a 5.0% positivity rate. The majority of new cases today are from Gauteng Province (50%), followed by Western Cape (18%).
The institute says due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of COVID-19 mortality cases reported.
“Today, the NDoH reports two deaths, and of these, one occurred in the past 24 – 48 hours,“ says the institute in a statement.
This brings the total fatalities to 100 098 to date. Below are the latest coronavirus cases: