The scientific community is almost unanimously certain that a third wave of COVID-19 is coming to South Africa in some form this winter. The threat of ‘new variants’ and cold weather driving the virus could prove to be a lethal cocktail, and whenever coronavirus numbers rise, lockdown restrictions get tougher – it’s a cycle we are on course for this winter.
Variants, cold weather ‘likely to bring tougher lockdown restrictions back’
South Africa has only vaccinated 300 000 healthcare workers, along with Cyril Ramaphosa, David Mabuza, and a number of other political leaders. Although immunisation numbers are expected to ‘shoot-up’ in May, not enough people have developed immunity against the virus to negate the arrival of a third wave.
So, if the inevitable becomes the unavoidable, what can we expect to change from our lives of semi-normality at Level 1? We’ve looked at the six restrictions that are expected to return first, in the event of another COVID-19 barrage:
What restrictions are most likely to return in a third wave?
Variants are arguably the most worrisome factor for a country that has managed to suppress its caseload, as there are suspicions that different strains can evade both vaccines and the body’s own immune response. The Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) has already stated that ‘leisure and business travel’ should be restricted now.
Take the Indian variant, for example. That’s causing a great deal of stress at the minute, as that particular mutation has a similar lineage to the EK484 spike protein that spooked scientists at the start of the year. Not only will international travel laws be tightened, but entire border posts across SA will also act as a first line of defence to tackle a possible third wave.
Wintery conditions make fertile breeding ground for this virus. If there are two things COVID loves, it’s indoor circulation AND large crowds. Should SA be in a position where cases rise, we expect to see the maximum number for allowed gatherings – both inside and outside – slashed dramatically by the government.
Much like gatherings, funerals can draw many people in, bringing swathes of mourners together at the same time. If gatherings are subject to tougher restrictions due to a third wave, funerals WILL follow suit.
Previous COVID surges saw booze removed from the shelves, for weeks on end. Prohibition is a crutch used, not always wisely, by the government when new cases increase, and drinkers of South Africa know to expect the worst…
This is one of the more flexible lockdown rules, and can be tweaked as the government sees fit. Every time gatherings, personal movement, and alcohol purchases are limited, curfew times get extended. So if we do get that third wave for winter, this restriction is likely to be altered again.
Lockdown latest: How bad will third wave be in South Africa?
Meanwhile, even with the looming threat of a new variant washing up on Mzansi’s shores, the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium has confidently stated that the inevitable third wave of the virus ‘will be much weaker than first feared‘. That’s because their own independent numbers suggest ‘up to 40% of SA’ has already been infected.
The consortium reckons that the real COVID-19 death toll for South Africa is nearly 130 000, as opposed to 54 000 registered by the government’s official rolling total. They also believe a well-managed response to a virus resurgence would ‘only’ lead to a further 7 000 deaths. But with the Indian variant lurking, the government remains on high alert:
“We wish to reassure citizens that there are no direct flights from India and that all our ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimize the importation of Covid-19. We are currently on high alert to screen passengers and test those who require further assessment.”Zweli Mkhize