Government prepared to deal with expected third wave of COVID-19 infections: Prof Karim

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Co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, says government is prepared to deal with the expected third wave of coronavirus infections even though challenges still remain.

Last night,  President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country has now moved to alert Level one of the nationwide lockdown.

Adjusted Level one lockdown rules:

Professor Karim says the severity of the third wave depends on the ability of South Africans to maintain adherence to health protocols.

“Based on what we’ve done so far we have got the experience of the first wave and a very severe second wave, so we have the elements of what needs to be done, how to ensure we have adequate oxygen, how to ensure we have adequate field hospital beds. Where we are experiencing challenges is in ensuring that we can maintain and keep down those little sparks that lead to slight jumps in the number of cases because those sparks can lead into a fully-fledged third wave. So all in all I think mostly we are prepared.”

Prof Karim on threats as SA moves to adjusted Level one of the COVID-19 lockdown:

Third wave expected in winter months

Professor Karim says government expects a third wave of the virus in June or July coinciding with the winter months.

“When we think about the easing of the restrictions that does not mean and does not give us licence to stop following the rules and ensuring we maintain all our prevention measures. We are at a lower level of transmission, we want to keep it there. And we definitely don’t want it spiking up again. we can expect that our third wave will occur somewhere in June/July. If there is a new variant then it’s completely unpredictable and we can then expect a much more severe third wave,  if there is no new variant then our wave might be a smaller one.”

SA needs to be less dependent on other countries for bio-technical needs

Speaking earlier in a virtual panel discussion organised by Wits University, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said it’s important that South Africa becomes less dependent on other countries for its bio-technical needs.

He says that when the coronavirus broke out, the country only had 10 percent of the products it needed to fight the pandemic. Mkhize says that became a problem when other countries began withholding resources. He told the panel discussion that South Africa must improve its manufacturing capacity.

“We need to ensure that South Africa is bio-technically independent and is capable of producing most of its own needs, particularly pharmaceutical manufacturing and some of the products that we might need. When we started the COVID-19 situation, we had an estimation of about 10-percent of the stuff that was available in South Africa – the rest had to come from outside. So when all the countries decided to withhold some of the supplies, we started feeling the pressure.”