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.
- 43.4 Public Health
- 39.9 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 Jan 1.)
Public Health Directives
South Africa’s public health policy is near the median, with poor testing, limited restrictions on gatherings and lockdowns, and limited emergency healthcare spending as its main shortcomings.
- Stay at home order 1
- Public gathering restrictions 2
- School closings 1
- Public event cancellations 1
- Testing policy 0
- Emergency healthcare investments/capita $0.53
- Travel restrictions 2
- Tests/1,000 people 112.3
- 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 10%
- 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 Jan 1
While South Africa’s rate of cases and deaths have come down, its positivity rate is high and has gotten substantially worse, giving it a very poor score in this category.
- Total deaths 28,887
- Death rate per 100K 487.1
- Total cases 1,073,887
- Cases per 100K 18,107
- Percent of positive tests 32.2
- Change in positivity rates +23.3
|1||May 01||A few businesses are allowed to reopen||4.17|
|2||Jun 01||Most economic activities reopen, except for high-risk ones (e.g., restaurants, bars, events, conferences, and domestic air travel)||25.87|
|3||Jun 08||Schools start to reopen||39.80|
|4||Jun 17||Restrictions on restaurants, events, conferences, and sports ease||60.20|
|5||Jul 12||Alcohol ban and curfew are reintroduced, facemasks are mandated||191.47|
|6||Jun 27||Public schools shut down for a month||94.23|
|7||Aug 17||Lockdown restrictions ease||63.32|
|8||Aug 28||Cinemas reopen||40.45|
|9||Sep 16||Shorten nighttime curfew, alcohol sales resume, public gathering sizes expand to 250 (indoor) and 500 (outdoor)||26.53|
|10||Oct 01||Almost all restrictions relaxed, including international travel to certain countries||21.76|
|11||Oct 20||High-risk countries revised down from 60 to 22||28.34|
- South African virus variant causes concern: A coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa in late December has caused concern. The variant is more transmissible than the initial virus, threatening to overwhelm healthcare services. Read More
- New restrictions imposed at the height of tourist season: Declaring the start of a second wave in early December, South Africa's government has limited the sale of alcohol and closed the nation's busiest beaches at the height of summer. Read More
- New infections concentrated among teenagers: High school graduates and teenagers have been blamed for South Africa's second wave, as statistics show that new infections are highest among 15-19 year olds, and a graduation party in Ballito led to over 1,000 attendees testing positive for COVID-19. 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
- Government eases lockdown: The South African government announced it will ease lockdown and quarantining measures as cases and deaths decrease. 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
- ANC in COVID-19 corruption scandal: President Ramaphosa has been accused of being soft on corruption linked to procurement agreements of health equipment and the distribution of South Africa's $26 billion social relief package, threatening the future of the ANC. Read More
Compared with Other African Countries
Per 1M 410
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 335
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 1,681
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 1,937
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