Third Virus Wave in South African Industrial Hub May Have Peaked

A third wave of coronavirus cases in South Africa’s commercial hub of Gauteng may have peaked after daily infections surged to a record last week.

The seven-day rolling average for infections detected in the densely populated province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria and accounts for the bulk of the national caseload during the current wave, dropped to 11,503 on Tuesday, from 11,647 on Saturday

“The seven-day moving average appears to be turning,” said Alex van den Heever, chairman of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, citing data he compiled. “This may be the peak.”

Daily new infections last week surpassed the previous record set during a second wave in January despite President Cyril Ramaphosa having placed the country in the strictest form of lockdown since May 2020. Curbs now include an extended curfew, an alcohol sales ban and restrictions on travel to and from Gauteng.

Deaths are likely to continue to rise for three to four more weeks, and there have been warnings that the province’s hospital capacity is at risk of being breached. Already excess deaths -- seen as a more accurate way of measuring Covid-19 fatalities than official cause-of-death statistics -- rose to a pandemic-era record in Gauteng in the week to June 20.

Bruce Mellado, a member of Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s Covid-19 advisory panel, also expects new infections to peak this week. There is no evidence that the spread of the delta variant, which was first detected in India and is now widespread in South Africa has increased the hospitalization and fatality rate, he said.

“We are not out of the woods,” Mellado said. “We are in the middle of the woods in that the worst for hospitalizations and mortality is still to come.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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