All South African provinces have passed the fourth wave peak as Covid-19 Omicron cases have seen a steady decline, according to Health Minister Joe Phaahla.
In a media briefing on Friday he said that while the country is not yet out of the woods with the Omicron variant, the fourth wave has been less severe and vaccines have played a vital role in protection against severe disease.
“The Omicron variant is not gone here but fortunately its severity is manageable. As to when it will be completely gone we really don't know.
“The fourth wave is unequivocally showing the protection of vaccination against severe illness and death,” he said.
Gauteng has officially exited its fourth wave this week, said Phaahla, and the other eight provinces have reached their peaks and are on a decline.
“Our understanding is that at this stage the variant is still here. In South Africa it's the dominant variant and in the world it's spreading. In some countries like the US they have more than a million new infections in one day,” he said.
Nationally, there has been a 27% reduction in new cases compared to a week ago and there has been a 6.3% reduction in hospitalisations in the same time frame.
“The positivity rate has gone down from 25-30% in the middle of December and currently as of yesterday this has gone down to 14%, which is still high, because we want to get less than 5%,” said Phaahla.
In South Africa’s fourth wave the overall admissions to hospitals has been much lower than the previous three waves.
According to experts this is known as “decoupling” where there is a steep rise in infections, however, it is not accompanied by a similar rise in hospital cases.
Phaahla said the vaccination programme took a dip over the festive season, particularly between Christmas and New Year.
“The vaccination rate is picking up slightly now but we are still below 100 000 doses per day, which is not good enough,” he said.