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Positive signs are emerging that South Africa has seen its Covid-19 peak infection period over the last few weeks as cases begin to decline. We see the government easing lockdown restrictions as a result and the first signs of a substantial tourism recovery being possible with leisure travel finally allowed. We have already seen local travel reintroduced: the first step in welcoming back the critical international tourism industry.
Overall, Covid related death rates remain well below 2%, although the peak daily mortality rate is likely still to come. Looking further afield, we see other key African travel destinations roughly two months behind South Africa’s curve, with a variety of measured approaches adopted to balance both the economic and societal needs of the population. Here’s an overview of the latest Covid-19 developments in South Africa as well as Africa’s main safari destinations.
A first step: South Africa allows local travel again
Nationwide, we see a distinct peak in daily infections in mid July, with significant drops now into August. The Western and Eastern Cape, both hit earliest by the outbreak, have seen consistent declines over the past few weeks despite increase economic activity. Gauteng, tracking behind these two provinces, is also witnessing easing as well. This emerging July peak coincides with the second peak in the USA as can be seen clearly in the graph below.
Credit: Our World in Data
Mortality data has remained very low by international standards at 1.6% (vs 4% in USA and 9.6% in EU). Though this will inevitably move higher in the coming 30 days as the peak infection cases run their course. Hospitalisation rates remain manageable to-date. Hospital admissions peaked at the 5,900 person level two weeks ago countrywide and should start to decline as new infection rates fall.
The first major take out is that South Africa is a clear outlier on the African continent, as can be seen from the above graph. Major tourism destinations outside of South Africa have seen daily caseloads increase only in the last month from very low levels before July. This puts popular destinations like Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Rwanda and the like behind South Africa by 1-2 months when noting cases per capita, though none showing significant signs of drastic increases currently.
African countries like Namibia are perfect for a social distancing holiday
Testing is a mixed bag as one might expect in resource limited African countries. Here’s an overview:
Government responses across Sub-Saharan Africa were swift in March and early April with blanket lockdowns and have since diverged somewhat as the country specific risks and impacts have become clearer. Current restrictions have been eased in Namibia, Zambia and Botswana; all with low caseloads, and lowest in Tanzania where case data is difficult to find. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda currently have the most stringent responses despite some recent easing.
International travel lockdowns follow a similar pattern as overall government responses (see our separate blog post summarising key current border statuses for more information). The standouts are Botswana, with a highly risk-averse approach given its low cases located around the capital Bulawayo, while its neighbour Namibia is taking a more aggressive opening approach. This will be what we continue to watch as new virus progression data and border opening plans become available.
Some good news regarding the Covid-19 development in Africa:
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While the rules and guidelines will inevitably continue to change, it is good to see that some milestones in the progression of the Coronavirus are being seen, especially in the key South African gateway market. As this landscape continues to change over the coming months and weeks we continue to closely monitor these conditions and ensure we can direct our guests to the best possible experiences as soon as they are available. We remain ready and eager to welcome you once again to experience Africa’s magical wildlife and landscapes and by utilising our Travel Experts, you know you can navigate this period of travel uncertainty with confidence.
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Grant grew up in Cape Town and graduated from UCT completing degrees in business, accounting and economics. Over the last 15 years he has split his career between Cape Town and New York. After initially starting out as a Chartered Accountant he moved into the role of a CPA in the private equity and real estate space. Joining Rhino Africa in 2016 he has led various areas of the business leading to his current dual role as CFO and COO of the tour operating business and property businesses. Luckily, Grant thrives on a challenge and no task is too big or too small, especially if there is a hidden angle to be explored. Grant's passion for travel, wildlife, adventure and knowledge sharing is evident in both how he spends his time professionally and personally.
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