Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest

Situation Report
South Africa — Trends

School feeding programme to resume following further lifting of restrictions

  • First case: 5 March 2020

  • Total cases: 131,800 (as of 28 June 2020)

  • Total deaths: 2,413

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

  • Borders/fligths: Closed for all non-resident foreign nationals.

  • Containment measures: Nationwide lockdown imposed since 27 March and further extended; in the current level three, all economic activities are allowed, except for consuming food and alcohol in restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, hotel accommodation for leisure, gyms and personal care businesses.


As of 28 June, South Africa has confirmed that over 130,000 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 including 2,413people who died from the disease. The President announced on 24 May that the whole country will move from level four to level three of the lockdown restrictions on 1 June to allow the recovery of the economy while the Government reinforces the public health response to the pandemic. The decision comes despite an increasing number of cases in the country, with more than 1,460 confirmed on 28 May alone, the second day in a row with over than 1,000 infections reported. The change will also allow the country to resume the National School Nutrition Programme to over 9 million children, according to the Department of Basic Education, quoted by the media. According to the authorities, the programme will reopen both for learners who will be returning to school and for those who will still remain at home. The later will receive food parcels. Many children had lost access to at least one nutritious meal per day since the closure of schools and the feeding programme due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early March. The level three of the restrictions also permits places of worship to reopen, subject to sanitary restrictions to prevent infections from rising. All economic activities are allowed, except for consuming food and alcohol in restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, hotel accommodation for leisure, gyms and personal care businesses, where social distancing is not possible. Public gatherings and other high-risk activities, especially those that involve close contact between large numbers of people, remain prohibited.

The Government reportedly faced some challenges over the lockdown regulations, as several opposition parties, teacher unions and civil rights organizations approached courts contesting the constitutionality of the decisions made by the authorities. Educators Union of South Africa was the latest group to go to court on 26 May to challenge the Government's plan to partially reopen schools on 1 June. Amidst the spiking number of transmissions, the Government is also struggling with its testing capacity, following the limited availability of test kits globally, according to media reports. Nearly 100,000 samples across the country had not been processed as of 25 May, which could mean that the actual number of infections in South Africa is even higher.

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, accordint 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