Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies' (TIPS's) 'Tracker: The economy and the pandemic' highlights important trends in the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa and how they affect the economy.
Transmission in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape continued on the accelerated path that kicked off with the move to Level 4 and escalated in Level 3. In Gauteng, the number of cases nearly doubled over the week to reach 137 per 100 000 residents; in the Eastern Cape, the figure topped 200; and in the Western Cape, it was over 700. In the other provinces, the incidence remained under 30. Differences in provincial testing strategies make comparisons increasingly difficult, however.
Government effectively reopened nearly all economic activity but continued to ban family gatherings except for funerals. It argued that relaxing restrictions on economic activity means individuals become responsible for limiting transmission. Government announced a new Ministerial Advisory Committee comprising religious and civil society representatives to promote behavioural change.
Government accelerated economic reopening largely in response to intense lobbying by businesses, often backed by the relevant Ministers (notably for mining, tourism and small enterprise). But it also reflects a conceptual contradiction: is COVID-19 like the flu, with an inevitable winter spike that equally predictably dissipates, or like HIV or TB, where behavioural changes can prevent transmission for long periods? If it is like flu, government should focus on bolstering the health system to deal with the surge in cases; if it is like HIV or TB, it should focus on changing behaviour plus tracing and isolating new cases.