Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest (Discontinued on 31 Aug 2020)

Situation Report
South Africa — Trends

Government reinstates measures to curb rapid spread of COVID-19

  • First case: 5 March 2020

  • Total cases: 615,701 (as of 26 August 2020)

  • Total deaths: 13,502

  • Schools: Partially reopened from 1 June (14.6 million learners affected).

  • Borders/flights: International passenger flights prohibited, except for repatriation flights of South African citizens and medical evacuations. Local flights resumed on 1 July.

  • Containment measures: In the current level two, economic activities are allowed, including serving food and alcohol in restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, hotel accommodation for leisure, gyms and personal care businesses.

Situation:

As of 26 August, South Africa confirmed that over 615,700 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 including 13,308 people who died from the disease. On 14 August, President Cyril Ramaphosa President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the easement of a number of regulations to contain COVID-19. This decision comes after the country is reportedly recording an average of 5,000 daily cases from about 12,000 per day over the past three weeks of August and recovery rate also increasing to 80 per cent. The number of patients hospitalised has also decreased from 10,000 at the beginning of the month to around 4,000. The sale of alcohol and tobacco is now permitted. Restaurants, bars and taverns are allowed to open, including for the consumption of alcohol until 10 p.m. Gyms and fitness centres can open, with approved protocols in place. Furthermore, all restrictions on inter-provincial travel were lifted while the curfew remains from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. Gatherings of more than 50 people are still prohibited, and current restrictions on international travel remain. Grade 7 learners returned to school on 11 August with no major disruptions, especially in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. According to the Ministry of Basic Education, 1,718 schools have been vandalized during the national lockdown causing serious setbacks for the communities affected, according to media reports.

A study on excess death toll has indicated that the COVID-19 outbreak may be even worse than reported. By the second week of July, there were 59 per cent more deaths from natural causes in South Africa than would have been expected based on historical data, according to a statement released by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). According to the statement, the timing and geographic pattern of the deaths “leaves no room to question whether this is associated with the COVID-19”, while noting that the deaths “may be attributed to both COVID-19 deaths as well non-COVID-19 due to other diseases such as TB, HIV and non-communicable diseases, as health services are re-orientated to support this health crisis.”

Previously on 21 April, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that "the nationwide lockdown is having a devastating effect on the economy" and added that "the pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike, deepening poverty and increasing hunger." The statement followed a series of protests and disturbs across the country over access to food parcels handed out by the authorities. Several food stores have reportedly been looted in different localities. There have also been reports of violence by police, including alleged killings, since the lockdown began. Response:

  • The Government announced on 21 April a R500 billion Rand (approximately $26.4 billion) social relief and economic support package, involving, according to the authorities, a health budget to respond to coronavirus, the relief of hunger and social distress, the support for companies and workers, and the phased re-opening of the economy.

Official sources:

Government COVID-19 Official website

Presidential Statement on Lockdown - 24 March 2020

Presidential Statement on increased violence against women and girls during the lockdown - 13 April 2020

Other links:

South African police officer arrested for allegedly killing man who violated lockdown, by Democracy Now

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Responses to COVID-19, by IMF

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