The director of the African Health Research Institute, Professor Willem Hanekom, says testing for COVID-19 has dropped sharply because people believe the pandemic is over in the country.

It comes as experts believe the country could experience a sixth wave of infections in the near future.

Hanekom says the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions has forced people to abandon the virus, which is known to constantly mutate.

He says this is exactly why people have started ignoring the symptoms of COVID-19.

“The number of viruses in a person with a positive test for COVID-19 is gradually increasing. In fact, this is the pattern that occurred before the previous wave. So we think there could be a wave, but there’s one big problem: we’re not testing enough people anymore. Not enough people go and get tested for colds and flu. Most people think we’re over COVID when we’re not over COVID,” Hanekam says.

Threat to health

Deputy Director General of Health Dr Nicholas Crisp says COVID-19 remains a health threat in South Africa.

“Covid is not over. It’s still very much around. The virus is circulating and people are still getting sick. The virus is very unpredictable. It is a very interesting virus and mutates quite easily. His genetic material is different every time. This means that the way we respond is different in each wave. The virus keeps mutating, so if we get another mutation, we could get another wave,” Crisp says.

Dr. Crisp says revaccination is essential to keep the body’s immune system up to speed to fight the virus. He says that revaccination provides a high level of immunity.

“We advise people to continue vaccination to protect themselves. So far, in all the samples that have been sequenced, we see that omicron BA4 and omicron BA5 are almost exclusively variants in circulation. Other things that people should know, our immunity weakens over time. If we are not repeatedly exposed to the virus material, we lose the cellular memory of that virus. The trick is to keep getting the vaccine boosters,” explains Crisp.

VIDEO: In April, the Ministry of Health briefed the media about COVID-19 in South Africa

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