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How is South Africa doing right now in terms of Covid-19?


This article aims to give you an indication of where South Africa actually is right now in terms of Covid-19 (14th Sept 2021). South Africa continues to adhere to the protocols of social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces. The good news is that we are getting over our third wave, as daily cases are now dropping fairly quickly. Like many countries, it has taken us longer to get over this 3rd wave which was been driven by the Delta variant, which has become the dominant strain worldwide. But domestic tourism continues, as it has done since August 2020, with no discernable negative impact.

Currently we are now down to Tier 2 of restrictions. Tier 2 restrictions allow restaurants and cafes to be open but there is a 11pm to 4am curfew. Tier 2 restricts large gatherings, especially inside, but it does not really affect any visitors in any material way. Alcohol cannot be purchased at off-licenses at the weekends, but is served in all restaurants and cafes on any day of the week until 11pm.

Vaccination Update

After a very slow start due to complete lack of vaccines, our vaccination programme is now moving rapidly as we have a steady stream of vaccines being delivered from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. We are averaging around 220,000 to 280,000 vaccinations a day. The stated plan is to get to vaccinating 1 million people every 3 days (330,000 a day.)

Registration is now open to all adults 18 years and over. As we have a very young population, I believe it is more interesting to look at vaccinations of our adult population. The current aim is to have vaccinated 70% of all adults over 25 (at least one dose) by the end of the year. We have currently vaccinated 35% of over 25s and 27% of over 18s (1st dose) so far, with 18% of adults (over 18s) fully vaccinated. But this percentage is increasing rapidly.

Case Update: 14th Sept 2021

We are now clearly on the downward trend after our 3rd wave. Yesterday’s new cases were 2,062 and the current 7 day daily average is 9 600 (for a country of 60 million people), but this is dropping quite quickly now.

Our restrictions have been dropped down to Tier 2 of restrictions (which is a curfew from 11pm to 4am, and no large gatherings of people).

Other African Destinations

Other African Destinations have escaped the worst, despite what the various Media outlets may imply. With the exception of Tanzania, whose official caseloads are highly suspect, other countries have carefully monitored cases and deaths. Even though many have experienced a third wave of cases with All our other destinations such as Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have low cases overall AND low cases as measured per million of population.

Why this may be will be the discussion point for future years. But probably the following are contributing factors in their favour:

  • Young population (average age being less than 20 in many cases)
  • Mainly living with access to ventilated spaces and the outdoors
  • Not high levels of pollution
  • Not high levels of 1st world health issues eg. diabetes, obesity etc
  • Vaccinated with BCG jab which may have given some protection

Country Comparison

Below we show visually how the South African case chart compares to the USA, Germany, UK and France, (the latter two with a similar population size.)

The Delta variant has seen an uptick in cases in all countries of the world. Though Germany and France seem to have it under control. But as we know, that has not resulted in too much hospitalization because of the power of the vaccines.

Though our cases per million are lower, the relative lack of vaccinations in South Africa meant that the death rate was higher. But, not as high as in our second wave, when we had no vaccinations at all.

UK Cases
USA Cases
French Cases
German Cases

On a per million basis of cases and deaths we continue to show lower incidence than nearly all of the Western World. However the relative lack of vaccines has meant that our death rate has not declined as much as in Europe and the USA. (Something to think about as the Western World weighs up booster jabs and vaccines for children.)

World Rankings – 14 Sept 2021 (Note: The lower, the better!) 
 Cases per Million PopulationDeaths per Million Population
USA16th (no major change)21st (no change)
UK25th (worsened from 37th)25th (small improvement)
France26th (no major change)30th (improved from 27th)
Germany94th (improved from 79th)62nd (huge improvement, from 47th)
South Africa96th (improved from 90th) 43rd (little worse)
Only European Countries with better rank:Norway
 (Excl small tax havens like Isle of Man)Iceland
 In population size, South Africa is 25th largest

Source: – South Africa

Thus – though Covid-19 in South Africa has certainly been an issue – it has actually fared better than most European countries & the USA. Only 6% of South Africa’s population is over 65 years old which means that we have fewer people in the high risk categories. Plus 28% of our population is under 15 years old and 43% are under 25 years.

Other African Destinations have been even less affected, again because of their age profile but also the relative outdoor lifestyle.

To be frank, we are at a complete loss why the developed world (particularly the UK) is targeting Africa when we have been the least affected continent bar Australia/New Zealand. We have the Delta variant now, not the Beta variant.

Vaccination Programme

Our vaccination programme started at a glacial pace. As you know, many developed countries have been able to secure large quantities of the first available vaccines upfront. However – after a slow and poor start – South Africa well on its way with our vaccination programme. . We will be starting on the 2nd Pfizer dose for the over 35s category very shortly and then the over 18s have their 2nd dose from early October onwards. The Government is enlisted the assistance of the Private Medical Aid companies & Pharmacies to distribute the vaccines, and distribution has been going pretty smoothly.

South Africa has now secured enough vaccines to vaccinate approx 80% of people 18 years and older. But we have a population of 60 million, many of whom live in remote rural areas and so the rollout will take some time.

Currently the two vaccines used in South Africa – the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine have shown good efficacy against the original Beta variant and the current Delta variant.

We are not relying on vaccination alone and various protocols are being used within the Medical Community which seem to reduce the likelihood of serious illness and death.

Current South Africa Vaccination Statistics

Number of adults over 18 vaccinated (at least one dose): 28%

Number of adults over 18 vaccinated (fully vaccinated): 18%

This varies by province with some provinces such as the Western Cape showing higher levels of vaccination. 36% of all over 18s have had at least one Pfizer jab or the J&J jab.

We appreciate that this seems behind your country. But our vaccination programme continues at pace whereas many developed countries are reaching their maximum (around 60-70% vaccinated).

Very little social distancing amongst this lion pride!

Tourism in South Africa

Furthermore since emerging from its first wave, South Africa has benefitted from a small, but enthusiastic, local market for tourism (September to onwards). During nearly all of these months, our case numbers have remained steady except for the Christmas spike. This is does seem likely the safe tourism is perfectly possible.

Cedarberg Africa has a small number of international clients in the country at the moment or about to travel. They are NOT locked in and in fear for their lives.

South Africa has developed a comprehensive set of protocols for hotels and game lodges:

  • Safe-guarding entry to the hotel or lodge, temperature testing, screening and hand-washing on arrival
  • Clear social distancing protocols with capacity limits for vehicles, restaurants etc
  • A “theatre of cleaning” but also putting the amount of  room cleaning & staff entry into the hands of the client. If you don’t want someone returning to do a turn-down, you don’t have to.
  • Clear and explainable protocols around eating (Buffets are out. A la carte meals and room service are in.)
  • Increased use of travel apps so that you don’t need to touch menus, wine lists or in room information. All the info is now on people’s phones.

These protocols have been refined and become second nature.

The Nature of our Destination

And, South Africa, unlike many other destinations, is primarily an outdoors destination. And we all know that being outdoors is the safest place to be as viral transmission is much lower.

We are not a land of colourful bustling markets, picturesque but crowded alleyways. Or fascinating, but all-too-well-visited, museums and art galleries

Rather, we offer:

  • Unspoilt, uncrowded beaches
  • Vast expanses of scenic wilderness
  • Quiet forest or mountain trails
  • And of course prolific game reserves. Where we don’t promise that animals will practise social distancing!

So we are ready to welcome you back whenever you want to venture forth…

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Milandi Joubert

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I’m Milandi, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

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