A swift government response has kept the coronavirus at bay, for now, but stark inequalities, heavy-handed security forces, and racist rhetoric are threatening the country’s hard-won unity.
- 60.3 Public Health
- 39.6 Financial
- 100 Fact-Based
Overall, South Africa's score is relatively strong with vigorous policy implementation—particularly with respect to lockdowns—offset by its relatively meager financial response.
South Africa scored near the bottom in every single subcategory, except for the relative size of its debt.
- Debt/GDP ratio 56.7%
- GDP/capita $13,965
- Gini coefficient (out of 100) 63
- Infant mortality rate (out of 1,000 live births) 28
- Healthcare access score (out of 100) 52
- Hospital beds/1,000 People 19.7
Government ResponseSelect a data point for more information
(Data points represent policy level as of Mar 15.)
Public Health Directives
South Africa’s public health policy is relatively strong, with strong lockdowns and testing policies counteracted by limited emergency healthcare spending.
- Stay at home order 2
- Public gathering restrictions 3
- School closings 1
- Public event cancellations 1
- Testing policy 3
- Emergency healthcare investments/capita $0.53
- Travel restrictions 1
- Tests/1,000 people 159.6
- Contact tracing 2
South Africa has a relatively weak financial score, with strong debt forbearance policy undercut by a small stimulus and minimal income support.
- Financial stimulus as share of GDP 6.4%
- Income support 1
- Debt forebearance 2
South Africa’s government is very strong in this category, as it has not engaged in misinformation or limited press freedom in response to COVID-19.
- Reliance on science/fact based information 0
- Press freedom 0
COVID-19 Status as of Mar 15
South Africa’s rates of cases and deaths have come down significantly, and it has improved dramatically in its positivity rate since January, giving it a relatively strong score in this category.
- Total deaths 1,190
- Death rate per 100K 20.1
- Total cases 1,530,033
- Cases per 100K 88
- Percent of positive tests 4.2
- Change in positivity rates -28
|1||May 01||A few businesses are allowed to reopen||5.13|
|2||Jun 01||Most economic activities reopen, except for high-risk ones (e.g., restaurants, bars, events, conferences, and domestic air travel)||28.23|
|3||Jun 08||Schools start to reopen||43.74|
|4||Jun 17||Restrictions on restaurants, events, conferences, and sports ease||68.76|
|5||Jul 12||Alcohol ban and curfew are reintroduced, facemasks are mandated||203.31|
|6||Jun 27||Public schools shut down for a month||121.57|
|7||Aug 17||Lockdown restrictions ease||42.84|
|8||Aug 28||Cinemas reopen||31.13|
|9||Sep 16||Shorten nighttime curfew, alcohol sales resume, public gathering sizes expand to 250 (indoor) and 500 (outdoor)||32.42|
|10||Oct 01||Almost all restrictions relaxed, including international travel to certain countries||29.42|
|12||Mar 01||Relaxed most restrictions on economic activity||9.54|
- South African variant challenges vaccines: Scientists found that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not as effective at combating the South African COVID-19 variant (B.1.351), compared to other variants. The B.1.351 variant has been reported across 32 countries with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that 81 cases of the variant have been found across 20 states. Read More
- South Africa halts vaccine rollout because of new variant: The government halted its use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical trial volunteers from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious variant. Read More
- Corruption scandals complicate COVID-19 response: The government's Special Investigating Unit launched investigations against 700 companies for possible corruption scandals in the country's temporary housing construction projects. Read More
- Strict lockdown cripples economy: South Africa was praised early on for its highly restrictive lockdown, but that has led to 3 million workers being laid off, and the onset of a recession in which the economy is forecast to contract by 7.2 percent. Read More
- HIV/AIDS experience shaped response: Health officials have credited their experience tackling HIV/AIDS (and their memories of the country's disastrous early response to it) for South Africa's quick reaction to COVID-19. Read More
- Military helped support severe lockdown: South Africa's lockdown has been notably severe, including a ban on all outdoor activities. The military has played a major role in enforcing the lockdown, with 70,000 troops mobilized. Read More
- Police brutality in lockdown tied to Apartheid legacies: Racial tensions have flared, due to police brutality against Black South Africans who violated lockdown, and the legacy of apartheid-era housing segregation, which means that white South Africans still tend to live in larger houses with outdoor space, and Black South Africans confined to overcrowded shanty-towns. Read More
Compared with Other African Countries
Per 1M 148
Senegal’s COVID-19 policy response has been very strong across the board, buoyed by strong public health directives and a reliance on science and facts.
Per 1M 217
Ghana scores strongly on the Index, due primarily to its proactive public health policy, strong examples set by leadership, and reliance on facts; while consistently strong, it does have very weak testing, limited emergency healthcare spending, and a weak stimulus.
Per 1M 686
Kenya has a strong overall policy score, although down significantly from January. However, it is consistently scoring well in all areas, particularly its reliance with respect to facts and science on COVID-19.
Per 1M 1,355
Despite having relatively weak pre-pandemic capacity, swift action and prevention-based messaging from the government helped mitigate spread early on in the crisis.
Further Reading From Foreign Policy
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Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:
- Debt to GDP ratio
- Infant mortality rates
- Hospital beds per 1,000 people
- Gini coefficients measuring inequality
- Health access and quality
COVID-19 Public Health Directives:
- Stay-at home orders
- School-closing policy
- Public-gathering restrictions
- Cancellation of public events
- Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
- Emergency healthcare spending per capita
- Travel restrictions
- Contact tracing
COVID-19 Financial Response:
- Stimulus package as a share of GDP
- Income support
- Instances of misinformation by leadership
- Limitations on press freedom, censorship
Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:
- Death rates per 1 million
- Case rates per 1 million