South Africa has seen a sharp decline in the number of new coronavirus cases since the Omicron-driven peak in December 2021, but analysts and the government are warning both employers and workers in South Africa of a possible fifth wave of infections in the coming weeks.
Covid cases in the country appeared to have bottomed, but new cases could start to move higher in the next several weeks, the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) said in a research note on Monday (11 April).
“Indeed, wastewater samples in Gauteng already show an increasing incidence of Covid-19. We have little doubt that there will be a fifth Covid-19 wave.
“The baseline remains that this will not be accompanied by anything close to the type of mobility restrictions enforced before, i.e. that the experience will be similar to the Omicron wave where the economy was kept largely open throughout the fourth wave.”
Discovery chief executive Adrian Gore has previously indicated a fifth Covid wave in South Africa is likely to be a lot more benign and less severe compared to previous waves, but that the group will still treat it with caution.
Gore said Covid variants appear to emerge in parallel to one another – so there is no reason why the next wave will be less severe than previous ones. However, he noted that the virus is expected to become more benign and endemic as time goes on. Based on these patterns, Gore said a wave could arrive in South Africa at the end of April and early May.
“While it may be more severe, we still think this is unlikely; but it is a risk and, therefore, I think we need to be careful not to take a hard view. The overriding position as a planner or business leader is to expect the best but plan for the worst and make sure you can survive some severity of a wave.”
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, warned that government can declare a national state of disaster again should Covid-19 infections spiral.
“If we look after ourselves, wear masks and make sure that we do what needs to be done… we may avoid a situation where this pandemic becomes a disaster again. That is what we’re hoping for. In the event that it becomes a disaster, we will have to revert back to the Disaster Management Act.”