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Ignore latest Covid-19 surge at your peril

Defiance, pandemic fatigue hampering response

A health worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine during a rural vaccination drive in Mpumalanga.
A health worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine during a rural vaccination drive in Mpumalanga.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

The new Covid-19 infection surge by 137% is cause for extreme concern. Under these circumstances it becomes imperative that President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation without delay. It is a proven fact globally that ending the Covid-19 pandemic requires two things: mitigation and vaccination.

Many parts of the country are in the grip of the fifth wave as infections continue to climb. A pivotal factor in this steep climb is that a huge portion of the population has discarded mask-wearing in public. Covid-19 fatigue is visible everywhere as the masses have thrown caution to the wind.

The new strain will spread across the country as admissions into hospitals increase as winter envelops the nation. We need to go into a higher lockdown as the nation and its strained and drained, but dedicated medical teams fight an uphill struggle to contain an escalating new wave accompanied by new variants whose potential and lethality is unknown at this stage.

The worrisome increase is being driven by BA.4 and BA.5, the new, more transmissible offshoots of Omicron that are now dominant in the country. The normal winter flu is raging across the country, masking the new Covid-19 strains. Many who are sick with the normal winter flu could also be infected with the new strains unaware that they could be unintentionally aiding in their spread.

This means that our data could be missing a lot of infections across the country, enough to obscure a large surge. The new BA.4 and BA.5 strains have now reached the US, and according to experts they have a set of spike-protein mutations that allow them to partially evade immune responses that protect against the previous strains.

The most troubling aspect of the current surge is that we are unsure of the speed of infection and its lethality. Could the strains mutate into a variant that renders current vaccines obsolete?

We are in uncharted waters and pandemic fatigue probably isn’t helping either. People who are over this virus could be ignoring their symptoms and going about their daily lives, while people who are getting reinfected may be getting milder symptoms that they do no recognise as the new variants of Covid-19.

In a new worrisome development, a SA laboratory study reveals that strains BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages have the ability to evade antibodies from earlier infections and vaccinations.

We will pay an astronomical price in human lives for not adhering to social distancing rules. Defiance in the face of a new wave will lead to upheavals on a huge scale. The carnage in human and economic terms that will follow will reshape the course of our nation.

Farouk Araie, Actonville, Benoni

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