The Health Department says South Africa will experience a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, although the severity is not yet known.

This emerged during a virtual media briefing by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla and his team. South Africa has administered more than 9 million vaccinations since the start of the country’s vaccine programme – and 60% have been to women.

Phaahla, says while the COVID-19 national positivity rate has dropped slightly in recent weeks, the department will not recommend moving to a lower lockdown level. More than 2.5 million cases and more than 76 000 deaths have been reported in the country since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Phaahla says South Africa is not yet over the deadly third wave, and that people need to remain vigilant.

“The third wave is still within our midst. Gauteng province has clearly reached its peak of the third wave. As one province goes down in numbers, another province takes over. Overall in the country, active cases have been reduced by 7 percent. New cases in the last 7 days have reduced. As the department of health, we will in no way recommend a relaxation of restrictions. We will recommend remaining at Level 3,” says Phaahla.

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Deputy Director General at the department, Professor Nicholas Crisp, says the only way to reduce the deadly impact of the fourth wave is through vaccination.

Professor Crisp says South Africa will not experience a vaccine constraint over the next two months.

“Up to this week, we have received Pfizer vaccines, J&J and we received a large donation from the American government. We are expecting more J&J deliveries in August. We are disappointed that registrations are decreasing. Total registrations are 9.2 million. There will be a fourth wave, we have no doubt, we don’t know when, how severe or which variant but we need to protect ourselves by vaccinating. We have vaccinated 7.25 million individuals.

Government aims to vaccinate between 70% and 90% of the country’s adult population by the end of the year,” says Crisp.

Health Ministry media briefing on efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic