South Africans who feel that they have been living under one of the longest lockdowns in the world will not be surprised to see the country ending up in second-last place on a list of 53 countries rated for their success at containing Covid-19 with the minimum social and economic disruption.
Bloomberg recently published its latest Covid Resilience Ranking with South Africa in 52nd place, down 14 places, with only Mexico worse off, based on its record number of fatalities, although it scored 119% for access to vaccines.
South Africa earned its poor ranking due to the severe lockdown restrictions, no vaccine availability, poor access to vaccines at 6% and high numbers of people who tested positive for Covid-19. Doing marginally better than South Africa, was Colombia with slightly better access to vaccines (33%), followed by the Czech Republic with 183% access to vaccines and Argentina with 70%.
New Zealand took the number one sport for the third time after almost eliminating the virus, closing its borders, deals for four vaccines and 247% access to vaccines. Singapore is in second place with 85% access, followed by Australia (230%), Taiwan (26%), China (77%), Norway (183%), Finland (183%), Japan (120%), Hong Kong (155%) and Vietnam (21%).
While Taiwan has little access to vaccines, it has a high score for its one-month fatality rate (0%) and low positive-test rate (0.4%). The same is true for Vietnam with a 1-month fatality rate (0%) and low positive test rate (0.1%).
The UK is in 32nd place, down two places, with a one-month fatality rate of 1.9% and a positive-test rate of 7.2% and vaccine access at 302%. The US is in 35th place, up two places with a one-month fatality rate of 1.4% and a positive-test rate of 14.5% and vaccine access at 169%.
Professor Alex van den Heever, chairperson of social security systems administration and management studies at the Wits School of Governance, said in response to the rankings that the result was largely tied to vaccine access and the fact that South Africa had not yet administered a single dose.
“However, the report uses the reported statistics for deaths and infections which are both inaccurate, as the excess deaths suggest many more deaths and infections. I have just published a report which would suggest Covid deaths are around three to four times higher than reported, although I am working with an infection mortality rate of 1.6%,” he said.
How does South Africa move higher up the list?
Van den Heever said South Africa needed to achieve more actual commitments to vaccine doses and begin vaccinating at scale. However, he thinks South Africa is likely to fall further behind the other countries on the list on these two fronts.
“The countries at the top of the list are either successful at preventing infections and/or have secured access to vaccine doses sufficient to cover a large part of the country and/or have begun rolling out at a significant level. South Africa has effectively failed on all three of these elements. We were unsuccessful at preventing infections and failed to implement a meaningful vaccine strategy timeously.”
He pointed out that the country did not really have a lockdown.
“It has some restrictions, which most countries now have. The original level 5 and 4 lockdowns did little to prevent infections but were hugely destructive to the economy.”
Van den Heever believes the recently implemented level 3 restrictions were more effective in preventing infections and harmed the economy less.
“This is even where there was overreach on certain measures, such as beach closures and generalised alcohol bans. Other countries closed pubs to prevent super spreading, but not the entire alcohol industry. This measure was quite odd,” he said.