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

With much black ink in the press devoted to the “South African Variant”, perhaps it’s time to give you an update of where South Africa actually is right now in terms of Covid-19.

Update: 1st March 2021

As of early March 2021, South Africa has come down off its second wave of Covid 19. we have moved from Tier 3 (out of 5) down to Tier 1.

The reasons for our second wave were generally recognisable world-wide – with general weariness in the population over restrictions. But they were exacerbated by:

  • The fact that the end of the year is when schools and universities break up and there are many festivals and gatherings of young people to celebrate the end of exams.
  • Christmas is the main holiday time in South Africa. (The equivalent of July and August in Europe and the USA). So people did come together as families for Christmas, however ill-advised.

Certainly the new variant exacerbated the spread as young people were catching it more readily and were often asymptomatic.

But our second wave was much less severe than in many other countries in Europe, UK and USA. Indeed our cases were significantly lower than those in many countries of similar population size. And our recovery has been much sharper.

Our new cases are now averaging 1370 cases per day (down from just over 3000 cases 7-day average at end of January). Yesterday (28th Feb) there were just 52 Covid deaths in a country of 60 million people.

And there is no evidence that the death rate was higher here. In a middle-income country such as South Africa, our hospital system was under severe strain for a few weeks. (As we have seen in richer countries as well.)

But an existing widely available drug (Ivermectin) has been approved for emergency use which anecdotal evidence suggests may be effective in reducing severe illness in Covid patients. (It has also been used successfully in India. However large scale tests are still underway.)

We are now on Tier 1 restrictions (lowest level). Restaurants are open and can serve alcohol. And visitors can visit all beaches, rivers and lagoons. The only restriction remains on buying alcohol after the curfew which is from 12pm to 4am. This is unlikely to affect visitors!

Covid-19 in South Africa – Where are we now?

So we seem to be firmly over this second wave, though of course vigilance is still needed. Daily cases and deaths right down again. New cases are significantly down every day and the 7 day average is also dropping by 5-10% every day. We are back to where we were in September to November.

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.)

UK Cases
USA Covid stats Feb 21
USA Cases
French covid 19 Cases Feb 21
French Cases
German Covid 19 cases feb 21
German Cases

World Ranking  
 (Note: The lower, the better…)Cases per Million PopulationDeaths per Million Population
USA7th10th
UK24th6th
France29th23rd
Germany69th43rd
South Africa76th44th
Only European Countries with better (lower) rank:IcelandDenmark
 GreecePlus the 4 already mentioned
 Norway
 Finland

Source: Worldometers.info – South Africa

Thus – though Covid-19 in South Africa does seem to be a significant variant –  it does not seem to have led to a worse second wave than elsewhere in Europe and the USA.

Furthermore, we do not believe that we will have such a peak again in 2021. As this was exacerbated by the Christmas gatherings. Any possible future increase will immediately be met with a temporary alcohol ban as this seems to best deterent for our country.

Vaccination Programme

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 – vaccines have arrived in South Africa and it begins its vaccine programme this month.

South Africa has now secured enough vaccines (53 million to date) to vaccinate approx 80% of people 25 years and older. 

And I imagine that the scaling up of global production of the various vaccines will lead to an increase in its vaccine. Its stated aim is to vaccinate 67% of the adult population by the end of 2021 to achieve herd immunity.

Yes, the vaccine manufacturers are doing further tests to identify possible changes to their vaccines to be able to cope with the SA Variant and other future variants. Just as happens with the Flu vaccine each year.

Note: 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% is under 25 years.

Very little social distancing amongst this lion pride!

Tourism in South Africa

Cedarberg Africa has tiny numbers of international clients travelling at the moment. We have clients in South Africa at present and they are NOT locked in and in fear for their lives. They have taken a carefully planned trip out of Cape Town to KwaZulu Natal ( organised about 1-2 weeks ahead so that we can make the best choices and are planning another one in about 10 days’ time.

Furthermore since emerging from its first wave, South Africa has benefitted from a small but enthusiastic local market for tourism (September to November).

During this time, South African case numbers remained steady.

South Africa 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 will 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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