As we enter the ‘Omicron era’ of the COVID-19 pandemic, predicting what happens next can be awfully tricky. However, the economic experts at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) are usually quite accurate with their ‘lockdown roadmap’ predictions – and the group has produced an update for us this week.
The Omicron variant is something of a game-changer in our battle against the virus. Just 10 days ago, COVID-19 cases in South Africa were at record lows. But an explosion in new infections – allegedly fuelled by this troublesome strain – has many South Africans fearing for the festive season.
For those seeking a silver lining, early research suggests that our current vaccines WILL be effective against the highly-mutated Omicron strain, but only 36% of South Africans are fully vaccinated at the moment – meaning that a large number of people can still contract a severe illness, if they get infected.
In turn, that will drive a rise in hospitalisations and deaths. PWC analysts haven’t sugarcoated anything here, after plotting both the best and worst-case scenarios for South Africa’s lockdown roadmap, on the left and right of the grid respectively. They also provide a ‘baseline assessment’, which occupies the middle ground:
In a best-case scenario, it is predicted South Africa will still have to move down a lockdown level to contain the spread of Omicron. In both the middle and worst-case outcomes, PWC predicts that Mzansi will go back to Level 3 restrictions – either in December or January.
Even when we take the optimistic view into consideration, a complete removal of all lockdown laws might not come until April. The baseline roadmap, meanwhile, assumes that we will have the State of Disaster in place for ONE MORE YEAR – but Ramaphosa did say on Sunday he wants to move away from this framework.
“A new threat in the form of the Omicron variant of the virus was announced on 25 November. While the government is hesitant to implement tighter lockdown restrictions during the holidays, our model assumes stricter measures during the second half of December and into January to combat rising hospital admissions.”
“Our estimates indicate it will take another five months before 70% of the adult population Is fully vaccinated. This period could be shorter if the current panic around the Omicron variant inspires more people to get their first and/or second doses.”PWC lockdown roadmap