Well, ain’t that just music to our ears? Shabir Madhi – a professor of virology at Wits University, and a serving member of the SA Medical Research Council – is convinced that there will soon be more to celebrate than just a move to Level 1 of lockdown. In fact, our time living under COVID-19 restrictions may soon end altogether.

Level 1 announcement due soon

Speaking with CapeTalk earlier this week, the leading medical mind was bullish about the imminent lockdown announcement from Cyril Ramaphosa. The country is poised for a shift to Level 1 restrictions, but the president is still hosting meetings on the matter as of Thursday afternoon. The wait is proving to be an agonising one.

However, a little bit of patience might just go a long way…

Madhi reckons that, once we’ve gone to Level 1, the next logical step is to move away from the State of Disaster regulations completely – thanks to the wall of immunity that is being built in South Africa. Both vaccine and infection-induced immunity will eventually reduce the virulence of COVID-19.

When will normal life return to South Africa?

Therefore, the medical buff believes that ‘a return to relatively normal life’ is now just around the corner. For some, waiting until the middle of 2022 might be too much to ask – but for a pandemic to start, spread, force lockdowns, and then be brought down by vaccines within just two years is a fairly rapid turnaround in virological terms:

“There’s very little reason for us not to go down to Level 1 – [but] we still need to have some level of restrictions for indoor gatherings. I’m actually fairly optimistic that we should be able to return to a relatively normal life certainly by the end of 2022 and probably even sooner for different reasons.

“It doesn’t mean that the virus is going to disappear by any stretch of the imagination. The virus is going to continue being with us for the rest of our lifetime. But we are developing a reasonable amount of immunity against infection and disease because of a high force of infection that has taken place.

“The immunity that we are going to see evolving against severe disease and death is a consequence of natural infection couple with vaccines. So it’s both working in tandem, which is going to assist us to probably reach the threshold where we don’t see as many people dying from / hospitalised with COVID-19 any more.” | Shabir Madhi

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