COVID-19 Second Wave

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Second wave of COVID-19 in SA ‘inevitable’ – due to these three factors

The threat of a COVID-19 resurgence is very real, according to Professor Salim Abdool Karim – here’s what is likely to cause a second wave in Mzansi.

COVID-19 Second Wave

Photo: Unsplash

South Africa’s leading epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, has warned the public that a second wave of COVID-19 infections ‘is inevitable’ unless we see an immediate change in some behaviours.

COVID-19 infections in South Africa

The scientific guidance followed by SA’s government has been largely shaped by Professor Karim’s input. On Monday, he spoke to SAfm about the chances of a second wave hitting Mzansi. The expert pulled no punches, and raged against both an anecdotal decline in mask-wearing and several ‘super-spreader events’ that have been reported in the past week:

“I hope that we have all learned how to live with the virus. If we can keep the transmission at its current level – of between 1 000 to 2 000 cases a day, we can make COVID-19 ‘endemic’ in this country. However, we are seeing things like the Tin Roof outbreak, the Fort Hare party, and huge gatherings in North West – these events make a second wave inevitable.”

Professor Salim Abdool Karim

What is likely to cause a second wave in South Africa?

Professor Karim has identified three key drivers for a second wave of COVID-19 in parts of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He believes that these factors are also present in South Africa – and have the potential to spark another surge in infections:


  • According to Karim, ‘pandemic fatigue’ is already taking effect in South Africa:

“People have become tired and complacent. At the shops yesterday, I saw perhaps a dozen people out of hundreds actually wearing masks. We’ve seen this in Europe and the US, as complacency levels rise, so do rates of COVID-19.”

Mass gatherings

  • Even with limitations in place, large gatherings of people are likely to spread COVID-19 far and wide:

“This has played a role in several countries. Things like religious gatherings and funerals present quite a high-risk, given that it takes just one person to be infected who can then pass it on to hundreds more.”

Eased travel restrictions

  • A cautionary tale for South Africa? As international travel reopens, the risk of a second wave tends to increase:

“Countries like Spain are now struggling because they reopened their borders quickly. They’ve tried to capture the summer tourism boom, but instead, they’ve ended up with a second wave.”