South Africa in a Time of COVID


une 25th, 2021-

  • The Third Wave Peak is Nearly Upon South Africa
  • South Africa’s COVID Case Numbers are Under-recorded
  • South Africans are Unsure on the Vaccine


The Third Wave Peak Is Nearly Upon South Africa.

As of June 24, 2021, South Africa has recorded nearly 1.9 million coronavirus cases and almost 60,000 deaths. The country is in its third wave of the pandemic, with cases beginning to trend upwards around the middle of May 2021. Based on current projections, South Africa will hit the peak of the third wave in July. COVID deaths in South Africa increased by 25% in May 2020, while the continent recorded a decrease of 3% overall.

In Ontario, Canada, modeling has been used to outline what the worst-case scenarios could be to help push for public health measures that will ensure those situations are never reached. As of yet, early and prolonged lockdowns have been effective in curbing case and death rates. South Africa reimposed stricter measures in certain parts of the country at the end of May, but projections show it was too late.

South Africa’s COVID Case Numbers Are Under-recorded.

According to a Kasi insight COVID tracker, in March 2020, 88% of South Africans did not know anyone who was diagnosed with the coronavirus. By mid-July, more South Africans knew someone diagnosed with the coronavirus than those who did not. In December 2020, 65% of South Africans indicated they knew someone who had been diagnosed with coronavirus. With a population of 60 million and the South African variant that was discovered in late 2020 as one of the several main variants of concern due to increased transmissibility, there can be little doubt that numbers are severely underreported.

According to the statistics, the first coronavirus case was discovered in South Africa on March 5. By July 1, the cases skyrocketed to nearly 160,000. As of June 24, 2021, the recorded cases are nearly 1.9 million and deaths are nearly 60,000.

A recent report on excess deaths in South Africa showed that the more realistic death toll is over 130,000, which indicates the true case numbers would be exponentially more than 160,000. This is no surprise, as the global estimations of true case and death rates are also exponentially higher than reported. It is believed that developing countries are even worse due to less robust reporting standards and a lack of centralized systems.

South Africans are Unsure on the Vaccine.

In June 2021, a year and a half since the COVID-19 virus began spreading across the globe, many developed countries have recently suppressed another wave while African countries are just on the precipice of the worst wave yet. While developed countries have vaccinated significant portions of their populations, developing countries have not had the same access to vaccines and as such, not the same vaccination rates. Africa has the worst vaccination rate overall at just over 2%.

According to a Kasi Insight COVID tracker, South Africans are very wary of the vaccine. In August 2020, 25% of South Africans surveyed were willing to get the vaccine as soon as it was available. By December, that had plummeted to 10%. In the same timeframe, the percent of South Africans who neither agreed nor disagreed went from 72% to 82%, demonstrating an unsureness off the bat that just increased. The percentage of those surveyed who indicated they would not be getting the vaccine as soon as possible also increased over the same time period.

South Africa has taken several steps to get the vaccination campaign rolling out including through spearheading a proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO), alongside India and supported by over 100 WTO members, to waive the intellectual property rights of the COVID-19 vaccines to allow the manufacturing of those vaccines to be more widespread across the globe. While South Africa is manufacturing the Johnson and Johnson one-dose vaccine, there have been several issues that have delayed the distribution. South Africa also was relying on India for the Pfizer vaccines, but due to the crisis in India, the export of the vaccine from India has slowed down significantly.

It is not only about getting the vaccine in the country. South Africans need to want the vaccine and at the moment it is about convincing the population that the vaccine is safe, necessary, and not a corruption scam. As the COVID-19 vaccines have gone through constant scrutiny, with the latest (and first) Johnson and Johnson's batch rejected and the AstraZeneca vaccine administration put on hold, uncertainty is not unwarranted. However, vaccines and strict public health measures are how the spread of COVID-19 will be curbed. As such, South Africa needs to implement country-wide prolonged public health measures and vaccination campaigns that convince people how beneficial the vaccine is to get the economy and life back on track.

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