4 023 732
cumulative COVID-19 cases since 5 March 2020.
deaths due to COVID-19 since 27 March 2020.
Month on month decreases since May 2022, following the fifth wave driven by Omicron
South Africa bolsters its COVID-19 response
Pretoria – South Africa has grappled with the continent’s largest share of COVID-19 infections since the onset of the pandemic. Throughout the crisis, the country ramped up pandemic control measures to effectively curb cases and deaths and protect people’s health. In support of South Africa’s efforts, WHO deployed a 35-member expert team to help bolster the response at provincial and district levels.
The expert team comprised epidemiologists, experts in infection prevention and control, vaccination, clinical care, data management, risk communication and community engagement.
Key areas that have been critical in South Africa’s pandemic response include strengthened outbreak control coordination, a decentralized approach which entails deploying epidemiologists to the districts, tailoring response in hotspots, generating local epidemiological data to monitor resurgence as well as rolling out vaccinations at the grassroots. The efforts paid off, with cases, admissions, and deaths declining over the five pandemic waves.
Lejweleputswa – South Africa’s mining industry is a major economic contributor. Like much of the economy, it was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to production decline and loss of life. To protect workers’ health, mines have set up preventive measures and are collaborating with health authorities to curb potential widespread infections.
At Harmony Gold Mines in Lejweleputswa district in Free State Province, a robust outbreak management system has helped identify cases in time and promptly referred them for care. Vaccination has also been a success: more than 80% of Harmony’s workers have completed their primary vaccination series and 34% have received a booster dose.
COVID-19 vaccination in South Africa
Pretoria – South Africa kicked off COVID-19 vaccination in February 2021, initially targeting high-risk populations such as health workers, people aged over 50 years and those with comorbidities. As vaccination ramped up, the country expanded access to vaccination and now the COVID-19 vaccine is available to all people over the age of 12.
WHO has supported the health authorities to design tools and measures to analyze vaccination campaigns and offer recommendations for improvements. In Limpopo Province, for instance, which is among South Africa’s provinces with high vaccination coverage, WHO surge teams designed vaccination registration and monitoring tools to support the vaccination rollout.
To further boost coverage in South Africa, COVID-19 vaccination is increasingly being integrated in primary health care services, so that clients are routinely offered COVID-19 vaccination by a health care provider when visiting a facility for other ailments and conditions.
Xhariep ‒ Vuyelwa Mnyameni fell ill with COVID-19 in June 2020. She remembers vividly how sick she was. “I just hung in there for the kids,” she says, recalling how she had to leave home to quarantine at one of Free State Province’s official sites for 15 days, far away from her family. When the COVID-19 vaccine became available nearly a year later, she was among the first to get it. “I said ‘you know what, the feeling I had last year, I don’t want to be there again’,” she says. “For my body to be well and fight back – I didn’t even waste time in getting it. I was just happy it was there so I could take it.”
She has completed her primary vaccination series and is visiting Mamello primary health care clinic to get her booster dose, as well as her three-month-old baby girl’s scheduled childhood immunization. The mother of two is on maternity leave and will return to her job as an administrative clerk in the district’s main hospital.
Mamello clinic is in a far-flung rural area in the Xhariep District of Free State Province, hours away from the main city. It is a one-stop shop for clients to receive a range of primary health care services, including COVID-19 vaccination. “We deliver all the services to the rural community that are found in a facility in town. We make sure that the rural area is also getting them,” says Ntswaki Lephokwane, a nurse at the facility. “The challenge here is that people are poor so there’s not much you can do about that, but by at least taking care of their health – that is something.”