South Africa, with more than 1.2 million reported cases, including 32,824 deaths, accounts for more than 30% of the total for the continent of 54 countries and 1.3 billion people. The high proportion of cases in South Africa could be because the country carries out more tests than many other African countries.
South Africa is battling a resurgence of the disease, driven by a variant of the virus that is more contagious and spreading quickly. Many hospitals are reaching capacity, yet the numbers of those infected are expected to continue rising, according to health experts.
South Africa’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 19.86 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 26 to 30.18 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 9, according to Johns Hopkins University.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will meet with his Cabinet this week to consider if further restrictions should be taken to slow the spread of the disease while balancing the need to encourage economic growth. The government has already reimposed measures including a ban on the sales of liquor, the closure of bars and restricting the number of people who can attend public gatherings.
Later in January, South Africa expects to receive its first delivery of a vaccine, 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot. The government said its first priority will be to inoculate the country’s 1.25 million health workers. It expects to receive more vaccines through the WHO’s COVAX initiative in April.
South African health minister Zweli Mkhize said that his aim is to see 67% of the country’s 60 million people vaccinated by the end of 2021, a goal that many health experts say is laudable but unrealistic.