Only 1 in 5 South Africans Believe They’re At High Risk For COVID-19, New Research Suggests

And other lockdown statistics...


Yamkela Mdaka |

It’s been nearly eight weeks since South Africa reported its first case of COVID-19, and while the virus’ full impact on South Africans is almost immeasurable, there are a couple of things that can be quantified.

The Human Sciences Research Council recently released a survey-based study that looked at the attitude of South Africans towards the national lockdown, the impact it’s had economically and how South Africans have adhered to the COVID-19 prevention protocols.

Done in two waves, the first phase of the study was done between 27 and 31 March and the second from 9 April to 16 April. There were about 19 330 participants in the study.

The stats

The study found that only 1 in 5 people believed that they are at a high risk for infection. This could likely be because the majority of South Africans adhered to the lockdown regulations. A whopping 99% of people reported that they left their homes either for food, medicine and/or social grants or stayed home, meaning that almost everyone was compliant.

Even though this has been the case, the economic impact on households has not been light.

“Just under 24% of residents had no money to buy food [and] between 45% and 63% of people reported that the lockdown would make it difficult to pay bills, debts, earn income, feed their families and keep their jobs,” the study says.

“Additionally, 26% of people reported that they had no money for food.”

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Over and above this, more than 55% of respondents who live in informal settlements, rural areas and farms said their chronic medications were not easily accessible.

“Government and society as a whole should acknowledge that some communities are struggling, and people may have no money or food,” the study implores. “A social [contract] must be created with communities and the public and private sector, to ensure sustainable financial and social relief. This should include promoting intergenerational cohesion and sustainable food banks at the level of the district.”

It goes on further to say that as we lift the lockdown, preventative behaviour change messages must be intensified and that South Africans need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour. This should be done with ‘targeted, tailored and culturally appropriate’ messaging.

Citing the research in a speech on 26 April, health minister Zweli Mkhize said that good social science research helps highlight areas that require greater attention by society as a collective.

“[This research] confirms many conclusions that were already factored into South Africa’s COVID-19 response strategy,” he said. “It has helped quantify the extent of the challenge and provides a more nuanced way of understanding the challenge.”

SA COVID-19 update

As of 29 April 2020, South Africa has identified 4 996 positive cases, but with 93 deaths and 2 073 recoveries, only 2 830 of those cases are active.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition also released an extremely detailed report offering guidelines for the use of fabric masks. It looks at the basic performance requirements of fabric face masks, fabric selection, design and instructions on how to use fabric masks.

“[Non-medical] face masks are not a replacement for other recommended precautionary measures. They should not provide a false sense of protection that lead to a lapse in the application of proper preventative measures like personal hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and social distancing,” the report says.

READ MORE: Social Distancing Could Continue Into 2022, According To New Harvard Study

Fabric guidelines for non-medical face masks

Let’s take a quick look at the guidelines for fabric selection:

  • Tests have shown that at least two layers of fabric is sufficient for balancing performance and comfort (as indicated above).
  • An increase in the number of layers will improve the barrier efficiency, but have the opposite effect on breathability.
  • Using three layers, selecting a non-woven (or similar) fabric with strong filtering capability (barrier efficiency) as the middle layer (with the accompanying inner and outer layers providing comfort, structure, and some additional protection) is recommended.
  • Ideally this middle layer (filter) should be inserted into the mask (or removed) via an ‘envelope’ style design to allow for improved cleaning and easy replacement filters when worn out.
  • It is recommended that the pocket into which it fits be at least 120mm by 100mm to ensure compatibility between multiple masks and filters in production domestically.
  • Clear markings or design options must be used to distinguish between the outside of the mask and the inside of the mask.

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