This TIPS tracker highlights important trends in the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, and how they affect the economy. It analyses publically available data, research and media reports to identify current developments and reflect on the prognosis for the contagion, the economy, and policy responses.
KEY FINDINGS FOR THE WEEK
On the pandemic
- In the past week, the contagion continued to spread rapidly in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. The daily growth rate in Gauteng (using a rolling average of the previous seven days) was around 8,5% in the week to 28 June, down from 10% two weeks ago, and in the Eastern Cape it continued to fluctuate around 7%. In contrast, for KwaZulu-Natal the daily growth rate more than doubled over the past two weeks, escalating from 3% to 8%, and in the North West it was 11%. As noted last week, new cases reported in the Western Cape declined, but the figures there may been affected by new testing protocols.
- The pandemic showed up the persistent inequalities in healthcare. The big metros have long had strong private health sectors as well as some excellent public-sector facilities linked largely to academic hospitals. In contrast, provinces like the Eastern Cape and the North West, which encompass largely historic labour-sending regions, have very limited private healthcare and weaker public systems. In this context, although the Eastern Cape has around a third as many cases per 100 000 residents as the Western Cape, it has begun to show severe strains.
- On 29 June, according to News24, the acting mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay said it should consider returning to Level 4 restrictions. But government has effectively given up on its original
risk-adjustment strategy, in the sense that it was not modifying restrictions on economic and social behaviour by municipality depending on the level of contagion. Yet it also did not move vigorously to improve communications and resourcing to empower people and institutions to prevent new infections. The crisis in the taxi industry underscored the lack of consistency in this regard, which seemed likely to accelerate the contagion.
On the economy
- The available indicators were improved by monthly salary payments. The key economic centres of the Western Cape and Gauteng still showed a slower recovery than areas where the contagion was better controlled.
- The IMF now expects the global economy to shrink by 5% in 2020, down from its 3% forecast in April. The international slowdown will constrain recovery in South Africa, which has an unusually open economy.
- The supplementary budget announced this week will provide only a limited stimulus. Government borrowing will climb to almost 15% of the GDP almost exclusively because of the sharp decline in tax revenues due to the economic decline. In contrast, spending is expected to increase by only 1,1%, with increased healthcare, security and sanitation coming mostly out of the budgets for other functions.
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