It’s true: the second wave is on the decline.

covid-19, coronavirus, epidemic

It’s been nearly a year since the virus hit South Africa, and life changed for all of us in the blink of an eye.

There’s been an onslaught of news since then, particularly the daily new cases. But all those numbers can really fly over your head, after the 300th time you’ve heard them (literally).

That’s why we really need to take a moment to pause and appreciate that the second wave of Covid-19 in South Africa, which far exceeded that first spike, seems to be on the decline. The number of daily new cases has shrunk from the crazy highs we saw around the end of last year, to early December levels. Just imagine, at one point in early January, we saw over 18000 people test positive in just one day! That’s crazy.

In an interview with Business Day last week, chairperson of government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, Professor Salim Abdool Karim said SA was over the worst of the second surge, and that transmissions would drop significantly in the next two weeks.

On Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa relaxed restrictions, and said SA had indeed passed the peak of the second wave. He said:

“The average rate of new infections has been steadily coming down over the last three weeks, indicating that we have now passed the peak of the second wave. In the past seven days, the daily average of new infections was around 5,500, compared to just over 10,000 infections in the previous seven days.”

Check out the graph below from Media Hack’s Coronavirus dashboard.

What’s helpful about this graph is that it looks at how many new cases there have been in South Africa every day… on a weekly average. That means, if a lab processes a bunch of tests in the middle of the week, that doesn’t make that day look particularly bad: it gives us a more realistic picture of how the virus is really growing or shrinking.

But if you want to zoom in day-by-day on these crucial last few weeks, check out the below graph for an up-close look at how infections have decreased.

But what is it looking like per province? Media Hack has a useful dashboard showing just that, and one can see the movement of the second wave at a glance across all of South Africa’s nine provinces. They’re all in decline following their second wave, with Eastern Cape – which had particularly worried authorities, in steep decline.

Note however that the lines just show the peaks and troughs of the virus in each province, but that doesn’t mean the numbers are equal. Provinces like Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have had well over 200 000 confirmed cases in total (most of those have recovered) while North West, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Northern Cape are still under the 100 000 mark. See below to see what we mean. And yes, we also wish we lived in the Northern Cape for a brief moment.

So what does this mean? Only that we’re out of the woods… for now. But this doesn’t mean we won’t see a third or fourth wave again, and we can’t be really safe till we are able to vaccinate at least 40 million South Africans to achieve herd immunity. Karim reportedly said that millions would have to be vaccinated within weeks to avoid a third wave – something that’s unlikely to happen now. Government has an ambitious plan to vaccinate 40 million people by the end of the year.

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