The Gauteng Premier, David Makhura has said that the province is in the early stages of the third wave of the coronavirus.
There are currently 4 000 active cases of Covid-19 in the Gauteng province and numbers are said to be doubling weekly in some areas of the province. Professor Adrian Puren from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases says that this could be a sign of a possible third wave.
The provincial government estimates that a third wave of the virus will hit within the next three weeks.
In a briefing on Friday 7 May, Dr Mary Kawonga from Wits University in a Gauteng Covid-19 Provincial Command Council said that even though the case numbers may seem low to people they are actually higher than they were before the country entered the second wave.
“We have not reached the third wave threshold yet but we are very worried. We’re concerned about the spike,” Dr Kawonga added.
Virologist Professor Shabir Madhi says that while the third wave was inevitable, this wave is expected to be less severe than the first and second waves.
"That is the good news, provided the virus doesn't mutate. If there's one thing we need to do as a province is avoiding super spreader event," said Professor Madhi.
The province has been monitoring data in an effort to track the start of the third wave. Professor Bruce Mellado says that the travel data monitoring tool showed that people were travelling more and that the level of mobility is the same as it was before the second wave.
The provincial government has been making preparations for the third wave. The head of Gauteng Health Infrastructure Dr Sifiso Maseko said that they increased bed capacity at hospitals and that the province had 3 261 beds for admission available and 803 for isolation beds.
Maseko says that field hospitals that had been previously decommissioned may reopen if there is a need.
Professor Madhi says that vaccines are of utmost importance in a time like this.
"We have to get the vaccines into the arms of high-risk groups. We need to do everything within our grasp to get them vaccinated. We need to get to 80-90 percent of the high risk groups vaccinated,and we can get back to relative normality. Covid-19 is going to be here for the rest of our lives. We need to be comfortable with that," said Madhi.
Gauteng has vaccinated 90 346 health workers as of May 6 under the Sisonke Protocol. Experts have said that this must increase so that herd immunity can be achieved.
There have also been speculations about moving certain areas to other levels of lockdown, but Premier Makhura dismissed any possibility of harsher lockdown measures until the number of cases deem it necessary.
Makhura says that without the full cooperation of the residents of Gauteng, "we will not be able to sail through what appears to be the early phases of a third wave."
"Our message is that the virus is still out there, the fire is still out there, but we can contain it. All indications state that we are in the early stages of the third wave. We do not want people to panic, but [we need] mass participation in how to contain these increases," said Makhura.
Acting Head of the Gauteng health department, Nomsa Mmope says that Gauteng had been allocated 61 000 Pfizer vaccine shots that are set to be rolled out by 17 May and she says that 235 000 people are registered on the electronic vaccination data system.
As South Africa approaches the cold winter, people are likely to gather closer together but they are advised to wear masks which cover the mouth and the nose, wash or sanitize their hands regularly and maintain social distancing. Ventilation in closed spaces is also imperative.
"We cannot afford to shut down the economy. The only way to deal with this is to take charge. People must wear masks and avoid crowds."