There are fears that South Africa could be entering a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections following a consistent rise in the number of new cases in the past few days.
On Tuesday, the NICD reported 5062 new cases from a total of 27 482 tests conducted in the past 24 hours, representing an 18.4% positivity rate.
It is believed that the surge in the number of infections is a result of gatherings that took place during the Easter long weekend, before which the positivity rate had been below 10% since the first week of February.
The positivity rate has remained above 10% for the past seven days, closely approaching 20% in the past two days. However, the number of fatalities remains relatively low, with six reported in the past 24 hours.
The provinces with the highest numbers of new cases are Gauteng (2 307), KwaZulu-Natal (1 448) and the Western Cape (571). All the other provinces had less than 200 new cases each, except the Free State, which had 206.
Although a number of forecasts had predicted that a fifth wave would hit SA around this time, some experts say the observed spike in COVID infections was expected and is no cause for alarm yet.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, who was part of the team that discovered the Omicron variant, was quoted in the media as saying: “What we are currently seeing is what we expected to see after the long weekend. We expected to see a much higher increase in numbers, because people were not wearing masks and they are abandoning non-pharmaceutical interventions.”
“Omicron has sub-variants and some of those sub-variants are more fast-spreading than the original Omicron. But this is not saying that we are now going into the fifth wave. For the fifth wave to happen, it needs to be a totally new variant.”