December holiday travel should be limited to avoid a surge in pandemic infections, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee , said in a radio interview.
With summer season right on the doorstep, many people in South Africa are consolidating travel plans. But the country's leading epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, has cautioned that interprovincial holidaying may increase the risk of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Sipokazi Fokazi for TimesLive.
In an interview with Stephen Grootes on SAfm on Monday, on whether travelling during the December holidays could result in a surge of new infections, Abdool Karim said travelling should be limited on “local scale” due to the risk it posed.
“The idea that we can do things at a national level without substantial harm in terms of the negative effects is quite limited. I think we will have to look for much more local adventures. Whether that involves the closing of provincial borders, we [will] have to tell.
“I don’t think that would be a step that would be taken lightly,” he said.
Click below to listen to the interview podcast on SAfmRecap of COVID 19 in the Country and Elsewhere
According to TimesLive, Abdool Karim said three factors – complacency, mass gatherings and the relaxation of travel restrictions – had been responsible for the emergence of the second waves in various European countries, Asia and the United States.
He warned that complacency in SA, such as the abandonment of social distancing and wearing of masks, could play a major role in a spike in COVID-19 cases. Recent cases linked to a Cape Town pub, Tin Roof, and a party at the University of Fort Hare, are indicative of this.
Sipokazi Fokazi reports in TimesLive that about 90 new infections identified in Cape Town’s southern suburbs, mainly among matric pupils, had been linked to a large gathering at the Claremont nightclub.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde launched an investigation after preliminary data indicated that of 63 cases detected among young people in the area, most had emanated from that establishment.
In the Eastern Cape, the health department has advised people to avoid crowded areas after 30 students at the University of Fort Hare's East London campus tested positive for COVID-19. The department is carrying out tracing and testing. It appears that the students contracted the virus during gatherings on 3 and 10 October, one in a tavern.
While summer is not a favourable season for the coronavirus, people’s behaviour during this time will determine whether SA will experience a second wave of Covid-19 infections, said Abdool Karim.
According to TimesLive, Abdool Karim said the spreading of the virus in the United States and Europe has shown that summer didn’t necessarily hold back transmission of the virus as people gathered indoors where the virus thrived.
South Africa’s transmission levels are at endemic levels, with between two and five infections per 1,000 people daily. Abdool Karim warned that the “know-do gap” – the gap between what we know and what we do in practice – is growing rapidly and may spell disaster for the country.
“When level of complacency goes up the virus starts finding its foothold and starts spreading again,” he said, TimesLivereported.
Second wave inevitable if SA doesn't change behaviour: Salim Abdool Karim. TimesLive