Covid-19: What’s Next for South Africa – And When Will It Be Over?

by | Feb 18, 2022 | Health

Since the last wave of Covid-19, Omicron, hit South Africa at the end of 2021, it’s seemed as though things have been looking decidedly up. Schools have done away with rotational attendance, and most workplaces are even opening up, which means regular commutes are back. Masks seem to be worn less and less, and Coachella just announced zero Covid-19 regulations at this year’s festival.
However, some places still uphold Covid-19 restrictions, while others are lax. The uncertainty is confusing, perhaps summed up best by that *highly* relatable moment Chrissy Teigan shared on Insta.

So… is Covid-19 over?

The short answer? No. Professor Salim Abdul Karim, an epidemiologist who shared the latest insights on the virus during an interview on JacarandaFM, noted that while there’s been a decrease in virus rates, we’re not out of the woods yet. As of writing, only 29% of the population is fully vaccinated. This, even though anyone over the age of 12 is eligible for the vaccine.
However, the noted dearth in infections raises economic opportunities that we can capitalise on while it lasts, Karim advised. “It’s not that we’re only acting on the science, we’re having to balance it with the needs of the economy,” he said.
READ MORE: How Can I Tell If My Symptoms Are Allergies, Or A Possible COVID-19 Infection?
 

But what about going back to work?

Some employers have been opening their doors again, forcing workers back into cubicles and open-plan offices. But what does this mean for people who are unvaccinated?
Well… South Africans are not legally mandated to be vaccinated. However, under the Health and Safety Act, employers are bound to create a safe working environment. According to a 2021 notice issued by the Department of Employment and Labour, anyone who’s refusing to be vaccinated needs to come to an agreement with their employers, weighing up the safety of others with what’s needed to be done at the workplace.
Your company also needs to do a risk assessment and figure out who needs to be vaccinated, and who doesn’t, depending on who’s more likely to spread the virus according to the nature of their work.

Expect a new wave

According to the pattern of the virus, Karim reckons that we’re looking at another wave of infection in the next few months, likely around April. Whether or not this will prove devastating is a different question considering South Africa has only reached a vaccination rate of 30%. Karim and many other health professionals advise that it’s important that the population gets vaccinated, since this is the fastest way to lessen restrictions and the burden of disease.
Furthermore, experts have warned that the virus is unlikely to go away at all. Instead, we will probably face more waves, each with different intensities. Plus, having the virus once doesn’t mean you won’t be infected again.
READ MORE: Nearly Half Of COVID-19 Infections Could Be Asymptomatic, New Study Suggests

What you can do

Get A Booster Shot

If you haven’t yet, you can go get vaccinated. If you’ve had your shot, you can schedule a booster dose when you’re due. This is now just 90 days after your second vaccination dose, instead of the previous 180 days. You can also mix the boosters. If previously, you were given a Johnson & Johnson vaccination, you’re not eligible for a Pfizer booster, and vice versa. This is so that regardless of the availability of the various brand, you’re still able to get protection.

Know The New Guidelines

If you’ve been tested positive for Covid-19, but you’ve experienced no symptoms, you no longer need to isolate. But, for five days after the test, you’re expected to wear your mask at all times, avoid social gatherings of more than three people and avoid elderly and sick people. You’re also not meant to be in restaurants, gyms or other indoor spaces in this period.
If you’ve tested positive but are experiencing mild symptoms, you need to isolate for seven days. No need to get re-tested after this.
Keep in mind that should there be a new wave of infection that proves to be deadlier, these guidelines can very well change.
The reality is that Covid-19 is far from over, but we’re definitely a lot closer than we were before.

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