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Coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Africa - statistics & facts

The coronaviruses are a family of viruses that get their name due to the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. They are known to cause illnesses ranging from a mild cold up to more severe respiratory diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2), publicly known as COVID-19, was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan by late December 2019. As of December 2020, one year after the virus was first recognized, it had already infected more than 68 million people around the world, and over 2.8 million on the African continent.

The pandemic in South Africa

On the March 5, 2020, South Africa declared its first novel coronavirus (COVID-19) case, a 38-year-old male who came back from Italy along with his wife and two children. As of December 8, 2020, South Africa had registered over 821.8 thousand infections and 22 thousand mortalities, making it the most affected nation on the African continent. Gauteng in the Johannesburg province, was the most affected with over 239 thousand cases. Western Cape and Eastern Cape followed with more than 142 thousand and 139 thousand infected individuals. As of December 6, 2020, Gauteng registered over five thousand deaths, followed by Eastern Cape.

Economic impact

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is predicted to negatively affect the South African economy due to the restrictions and lockdowns conducted by the government to try to control the infection rate. On March 23, 2020, the first national lockdown was announced and took effect a few days later on March 27. Before the pandemic, the real GDP growth was projected to 1.1 and 1.8 percent in 2020 and 2021, respectively. However, under the worst-case assumption, the growth was expected to be hindered, with the economy contracting by 7.5 percent in 2020, before picking up in 2021 and growing by 1.3 percent. The consequences for the budget balance are expected to be severe, with deficit projections for 2020 being 13.1 percent of the GDP, whereas the estimation before the outbreak revealed a 4.5 deficit.

The impact on businesses

According to a survey conducted in April 2020, the pandemic is expected to have a dire effect on businesses, with up to 38 percent claiming to have seen an effect on imports. Moreover, 85 percent of businesses surveyed indicated they could survive up to three months without revenue, of which, in turn, approximately 30 percent claimed they can only survive for up to one month. Prices also saw a surge, over 30 percent of businesses claimed. The workforce is also facing extreme challenges after one-third of the businesses indicated that they would decrease their employee numbers in the short term to be able to cope with the financial fallout from the pandemic.

For further information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, please visit our dedicated Facts and Figures page and our Trend Whitepaper.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Africa

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