South Africa: Is the South African COVID-19 Epidemic Different From the Rest of the World?

(file photo).

South Africa's relatively low death rate from Covid-19 is hard to explain. While we may yet be lucky that our population is more resilient to the infection than elsewhere, and a relatively small older population will be helpful - it is too early to tell.

South Africa has experienced the Covid-19 epidemic rather differently from many other countries and there is much interest and speculation why this might be. It appears to be different in two ways. First, the total number of infections presenting with illness or discovered through limited community testing is relatively low at this point (4,361 on 25 April). Compared with the United Kingdom, or with some comparable developing countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, there are far fewer cases per million population, and South Africa finds itself in the company of countries such as Finland, Egypt and Argentina.

The first explanation for these lower rates is simply that the initial infectious cases only arrived in South Africa a month or more after it started in the UK and US. One way of marking the "take-off" point would be the date on which the number of cases exceeded 100. In SA that was 18 March. In the...

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