Professor Salim Abdool Karim has warned that despite the declining number of positive Covid-19 cases, the country should brace itself for a second wave.
The Department of Health has been registering fewer cases of Covid-19. On Wednesday, there were 2 810 new cases recovered and only 259 deaths.
Speaking on a webinar organised by the University of Free State on health modelling during Covid-19, Karim, who is the chairperson of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, said: “We have seen a downward trend in terms of deaths, admission and positive cases.
“This is a pretty promising trend, but there is still a risk of a second wave. We need to work at avoiding an even worse second wave. Country after country is seeing a second wave. This isn’t the time for complacency.”
His call came in the wake of unconfirmed reports that the country would soon go to lockdown alert level 2, which automatically lifts the ban on alcohol.
He said the public needed to readjust to living with the disease.
“We have to go on the basis that we have to plan for the long term. Even if we get a vaccine it is unlikely that we will vaccinate a substantial part of our population before the end of next year.
We need to transition from being scared, to a situation where we can control our risk. When we influence our risk, we influence the risk of those among us,” Karim said.
The chairperson of the Research Committee on Covid-19, Professor Glenda Gray, said the strategy with the decreasing number of cases should be doing more community testing.
“We need to minimise community transmissions by continuing to implement non-pharmaceutical interventions. We must continue to avoid crowds and congestion and make sure we use masks correctly.
“We need to move from the testing strategy we have now and move into community testing, tracking and tracing. We have a lot of work to do.
We all have a role to play to prevent transmissions,” Gray said.
She said it was important for pupils to go back to school because their Covid19 symptoms were milder, but it was important to protect older teachers and parents.
She said a trend they were seeing with transmissions between healthcare workers was that they took off their masks during their breaks.
“Teachers must be aware of that and keep their masks on at all times,” she said.
The experts agreed that most of the community transmissions occurred in transit, whether on taxis or planes.
Karim said: “The general principle…is that we don’t want any two people sitting next to each other… We are seeing that taxis are part and parcel of the problem in that they are fostering the spread of the virus.