South African Economic Hub’s Third Wave Peak Expected in Early July

South Africa’s economic hub of Gauteng, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, is expected to hit the peak of a third wave of Covid-19 infections in the first week of July, according to modeling prepared for the provincial government.

While an unexpected surge to a record 10,870 daily infections on Wednesday may portend a worse outcome, data to date show the province will likely have about 65,000 active cases from June 29 to July 9 before they begin to decline, a presentation by Bruce Mellado, a member of Premier David Makhura’s Advisory Committee, showed on Thursday.

“Overall data appears consistent with the central curve of the worst-case scenario, indicating the peak to arrive the first week of July,” Mellado said in the presentation. “However, large numbers yesterday are a serious source of concern.”

While the surge in infections in Gauteng is slowing, with a 44% increase last week compared with 74% two weeks earlier, the impact has led to calls for tighter curbs on movement and alcohol consumption even as some experts say the government has left it too late. The province is home to one in four South Africans and more than 60% of daily new infections nationally. Gauteng accounts for 40% of the South African economy.

Dodged Bullet

The province may experience a stronger wave of infections than other provinces because its was comparatively unscathed during the second wave of infections in December and January as many people left the province during the annual holiday season, said Alex van den Heever, chair of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand.

“Because Gauteng missed a bullet with the second wave, my analyses always showed that a large population susceptible to infection remained in the most populous and concentrated province in the country,” van den Heever said. “This was always going to be the winter scenario. Over a month ago this scenario was clear.”

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