The COVID situation in South Africa so far

Here are some graphs representing the changes in numbers of active COVID cases in South Africa between March 2020 (when the first cases were found in the country) and January 13th, 2021:

COVID situation in South Africa between March 2020 and January 13th, 2021.
COVID situation in South Africa between March 2020 and January 13th, 2021.

Below I look in more detail at the situation in KwaZulu-Natal and in the Western Cape, the provinces with the most active cases, by showing both the changes in numbers of active COVID cases and the number of COVID-related deaths per day:

COVID situation in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape between March 2020 and January 13th, 2021. Note that the y-axes differ in range.
COVID situation in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Western Cape between March 2020 and January 13th, 2021. Note that the y-axes differ in range.

At the moment COVID is associated with about twice as many deaths in the Western Cape as in KwaZulu-Natal, despite the fact that the Western Cape is dealing with roughly half as many known active COVID cases as KwaZulu-Natal.

Here are some possible reasons:

  • The number of COVID-related deaths per day compared to the active cases may be similar in the two provinces but the Western Cape is underestimating the number of active cases, perhaps because of insufficient testing;
  • It may be because the healthcare system in the Western Cape is failing to provide as much assistance to its COVID patients compared to KwaZulu-Natal.
  • It may be because the Western Cape is dealing with a different strain of the virus.

I have not tested the validity of any of the above-mentioned possibilities. I am just jotting down some thoughts, they should be taken with a big grain of salt.

For completeness, I also reported the COVID case fatality rates over time in the two provinces. The case fatality rate, according to Wikipedia, is “the proportion of deaths from a certain disease compared to the total number of people diagnosed with the disease for a particular period”.

I am not sure whether it is more meaningful to compare case fatality rates rather than the daily number of deaths versus active cases from an epidemiological point of view. I am a quantitative ecologist, not an epidemiologist, so I am dabbling outside my element.

External links:

South African SARS-CoV-2 Variant Alarms Scientists

COVID dataset for South Africa maintained by Data Science for Social Impact Research Group (University of Pretoria). This is the source of the data I used for my graphs and analyses.