Is SA moving towards a Covid-19 recovery period?

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Wits University’s Prof Shabir Madhi says SA is moving towards a Covid-19 recovery phase after battling the pandemic for two years since the first case was confirmed in March 2020. 

Madhi unpacked a recently published study that looked at the seropositivity (the percentage of people who have antibodies to the virus) against Sars-CoV2, a virus that causes Covid-19, before the fourth wave dominated by the Omicron variant. 

Madhi says the study was conducted in Gauteng and samples were taken from 7,000 people. They show that among people under 12 years of age, none of whom received a Covid-19 vaccine, 56% showed the presence of antibodies to the virus.

Among the over 50s it was 80%, including 70% if unvaccinated and 93% if vaccinated. He said the seropositivity rate in highly populated inner-city areas was 85%.

The study also analysed the effect of vaccination, hospitalisation and deaths due to Covid-19.

Madhi said it discovered high levels of hybrid immunity which he describes as immunity gained from a combination of previous infections and vaccinations.

On hospitalisations and deaths, “the study found a massive decoupling between the number of people becoming infected with the virus relative to Covid-19 hospitalisation and death rates during the course of Omicron compared with earlier waves. This was true across all adult age groups,” said Madhi. 

Is SA moving towards a recovery period? Yes, according to Madhi. 

“The findings indicate that SA is moving into the convalescent phase of the Covid-19 pandemic — the recovery phase. This is likely to be the same in other countries with low or modest vaccine uptake, but the high force of past infections.

“As such, SA needs to recalibrate its approach to the pandemic and to start managing it as we would do for other respiratory infections which too, cause a large number of hospitalisations and deaths,” said Madhi.



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