Professor Salim Abdool Karim says that while South Africa is “in a good place” with the number of Covid-19 cases declining steadily, we must prepare for a second wave of infections.
Karim heads up the inter-ministerial advisory committee assisting the government in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
He told Jacaranda FM’s Martin Bester that the country has been on a steady downward trajectory after a relatively short peak in infections of around two weeks.
This, Karim said, was better than what most other countries have experienced.
When asked whether the start of the spring/summer season could impact the course of the pandemic, Karim said that evidence from Europe and the United States, where the infection rate climbed dramatically in summer, made it impossible to say that the virus responds differently to seasonal changes.
When can South Africans expect to stop wearing masks in public?
“Masks are one of the most important preventative measures. We’ll have to wear it for as long as we have a threat of the virus,” Karim said.
“Right now we still have over 2 000 cases a day. This is not a time to be walking around without a mask. You’re putting yourself at risk and you’re putting others at risk if you do that,” he said in response to a listener’s question.
How soon can we move to level 1 lockdown?
Professor Karim told Bester that there was no definitive number of daily cases before the country can move down to the lowest restriction levels. He explained that different methodologies are used to determine when a country is ready to reopen.
“There are various recommendations. For example, the World Health Organization recommends that you ease restrictions when you are below 5 percent of positive tests. There are others that work on a basis of ten cases per million, so once you’re below that they call it ‘low transmission’.
“For us to get to a point of below 10 cases per million that means that you’re probably looking at around 600 cases per day,” Karim said.