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Fifth wave could hit SA in April or May

A fifth wave of Covid-19 could hit South Africa in April or May, but Discovery thinks it is unlikely that it will be more severe than previous waves, says group’s chief executive, Adrian Gore.

In a social media post this week, Gore said South African data showed that each of the waves has followed a similar, “remarkable” pattern, with the peak from one wave to the peak of another tending to be 170 days.

He said each wave was more infectious, but less severe.

Covid-19’s variants emerge in parallel. “Omicron isn’t related to delta, which isn’t related to beta […] so there’s no necessary reason why the next wave should be less benign or more severe,” he said.

Ultimately, the virus does become more benign and less endemic, but we don’t know whether we are there yet.

Discovery’s view was that a wave could come in late April or early May, and it could be more severe. “We still think that is unlikely. But it is a risk. I therefore think, from what we’ve seen, that we need to be careful not to take a hard view.

“The overriding position as a planner or as a business leader is to expect the best but plan for the worst and make sure you can survive some severity of a wave.”

Gore said he believed that Covid was receding, “and we need to move on, but just be sure you can survive a setback. It may happen, although I think it’s unlikely.”

Epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim also says it is likely that South Africa will see a fifth wave at the end of April.

In a radio interview in February, Karim said it was impossible to tell what the next Covid wave will be or what the next Covid-19 variant could be because it does not exist.

“We work on a rough basis that we will get a new wave every three months. The omicron wave ended about two weeks ago, so that means we now have about three months, and we can predict that we will likely see the fifth wave around the end of April or thereabouts.

“It will be driven by a new variant, and it is unlikely that omicron will be coming back again. The issue is that nobody can predict what the new variant will look like.”

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