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.
- 32.1 Public Health
- 26.1 Financial
- 100 Fact-Based
South Africa has had a medium policy response, driven by a vigorous lockdown, although its financial response, particularly its relatively small stimulus package, brings its score down. Despite its high score, its limited testing might explain why it is experiencing a spike in cases.
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 Sep 1.)
Public Health Directives
South Africa’s public health policy is relatively weak with poor testing and limited emergency healthcare spending are its main shortcomings.
- Stay at home order 2
- Public gathering restrictions 4
- School closings 0
- Public event cancellations 2
- Testing policy 0
- Emergency healthcare investments/capita $0.53
- Travel restrictions 4
- Tests/1,000 people 62
- Contact tracing 2
South Africa has a relatively weak financial score and has provided 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 Sep 1
Despite implementing a strict lockdown, South Africa’s rate of cases has been high, possibly due to its poor pre-pandemic capacity, ranking it near the median in this category; it has managed, however, to keep its death rate low.
- Total deaths 14,149
- Death rate per 100K 238.6
- Total cases 627,041
- Cases per 100K 10,573
- Percent of positive tests 12.8
- Change in positivity rates -13.5
|1||May 01||A few businesses are allowed to reopen||4.08|
|2||Jun 01||Most economic activities reopen, except for high-risk ones (e.g., restaurants, bars, events, conferences, and domestic air travel)||24.33|
|3||Jun 08||Schools start to reopen||37.58|
|4||Jun 17||Restrictions on restaurants, events, conferences, and sports ease||56.23|
|5||Jul 12||Alcohol ban and curfew are reintroduced, facemasks are mandated||183.56|
|6||Jun 27||Public schools shut down for a month||88.82|
|7||Aug 17||Lockdown restrictions ease||66.21|
|8||Aug 28||Cinemas reopen||44.19|
- 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 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
- 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 the coronavirus. 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 284
Senegal’s COVID-19 policy response has been relatively strong across the board, buoyed by a high degree of preparedness and a reliance on facts and science.
Per 1M 276
Ghana scores very strongly on the Index, due primarily to its proactive public health policy, strong examples set by leadership, and reliance on facts, but its financial response was relatively weak, with a minimal stimulus and little income support.
Per 1M 577
Kenya has a very strong overall policy score, consistently scoring well in all areas, particularly its reliance on facts and science on COVID-19.
Per 1M 809
Despite having relatively weak pre-pandemic capacity, swift action and prevention-based messaging from the government helped to mitigate spread early on in the crisis; however, Ethiopia faced a notable uptick in cases in August following easing of quarantine restrictions.
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