Joe Phaahla, Minister of Health, Department of Health, COVID-19 infections, rise in COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 in SA

Minister of Health Joe Phaahla has pointed to religious holidays as a possible reason for the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in SA. GCIS / Flickr

Rise in COVID-19 infections *may* be linked to religious holidays – Phaahla

Minister of Health Joe Phaahla says one possible reason for the rise in COVID-19 infections recently is the spate of religious holidays.

Joe Phaahla, Minister of Health, Department of Health, COVID-19 infections, rise in COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 in SA

Minister of Health Joe Phaahla has pointed to religious holidays as a possible reason for the recent spike in COVID-19 infections in SA. GCIS / Flickr

While there is a noticeable rise in COVID-19 infections and test positivity rate, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla says that it is still too early to declare the arrival of a fifth wave. 

Phaahla considers data that the fifth wave might arrive earlier

Speaking at a media briefing on the morning of Friday, 29 April, Phaahla says that the data suggests that the fifth wave may be arriving earlier than expected.

“Whichever way we look at it, it does suggest that we may actually be entering the fifth wave much earlier. We have to just wait for a few more days, maybe another seven days, to be very sure that this was not just a sporadic uptick but a sustained uptick,” said Phaahla.

Series of religious holidays could have driven the rise in infections

There is currently no new variant of concern that has been identified as a driver of the recent rise in infections. One theory that officials are looking at is the spate of religious holidays. This could be the driver of the rise in infections and the earlier arrival of a fifth wave.

“There is also an analysis that because of the Easter weekend, which also coincided this time with the holy period of Ramadan for Muslims and Passover for the Jewish faith, there were a lot of religious gatherings which also could’ve been the trigger for the spike that we’ve seen over the last 14 days,”

Joe Phaahla, Minster of Health.

Phaahla explained that over the next seven days, a clearer picture will be painted with regard to the earlier start of the fifth wave without a variant of concern. He said that the time until 6 May will illustrate if there is a subvariant driving the rise in infections or if it is a result of gatherings over the Easter weekend.

A long winter may increase COVID-19 cases in SA

Phaahla cautioned South Africans about the risk of higher rates of infections due to the approach of Winter. He said that it is going to be a very long winter, where people spend more time indoors. Gatherings will tend to be held indoors as well, risking a high spread of any respiratory infection, reports Business Insider.

“What is clear is that we are still at great risk of Covid-19, especially as we go into a very long winter. It’s going to be a very long winter, where people spend more time indoors and where even our gatherings, whether for functions or just restaurants and other activities, will largely be indoors, which has a risk of high spread for any respiratory infection,” said Phaahla.

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