The Western Cape is not resting on its laurels after overcoming the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Alan Winde announced the province is preparing to face a possible third wave in the coming months at his weekly digital conference on Wednesday, March 3.

The provincial Head of Health, Dr Keith Cloete, said “the third wave is real,” and added that projections suggest it might hit the country sometime between April and June, as the seasons change.

“While we know that a third wave is likely, we cannot predict the timing, location or magnitude of a resurgence,” said Winde.

There are six key factors that could drive the resurgence of the virus, according to the province. They are:

  1. Changes in viral transmissibility could be brought about by changes in the weather and seasonal changes in behaviour such as the Easter weekend and funeral attendance.
  2. Behavioural changes among the population such as changes in restrictions and adherence to quarantine and isolation protocols.
  3. Changes in interactions between connected subpopulations such as movements between provinces and movement between urban and rural areas.
  4. Changing immunity/reinfection risk, as there is some evidence to show immunity post infection. However, this may wane over time.
  5. Viral evolution, as new variants like 501Y.V2 could affect viral transmissibility.
  6. Speed, impact and uptake of vaccinations will also impact the severity of the third wave.

The province will focus on containment and mitigation of the virus in between peaks, in order to ensure that cluster cases — related to a single location or event — do not result in widespread community transmission.

“Once community transmission has been established, containment efforts become ineffective and the focus must then shift to mitigation measures, to reduce the numbers of deaths, ensure that our healthcare system does not become overwhelmed and protect our health care workers,” said the province.

The containment response will be geared to encouraging prevention behaviour and increased testing and surveillance, while mitigation measures will focus on retaining the field hospital capacity and the infrastructure put in place during the first flurry of waves.

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