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Covid-19 in numbers: Deaths, prices and grim milestones during the year of lockdown


At midnight on March 26 a year ago our lives changed. Those changes were seismic and the aftermath remains.

South Africa – Cape Town – 27 May 2020 – Anncha’s husband and family mourn her death at her burial. Anncha Kepkey was laid to rest at the Durbanville Memorial Park a week after the passed away from Covid-19. The virus has claimed the third life of a nurse in the Western Cape and the second from Tygerberg Hospital. Anncha Kepkey, from Parow, the assistant manager at the trauma unit at Tygerberg Hospital, died in the Melomed Hospital in Bellville early on Wednesday morning due to Covid-19. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA) ANATOPIX LOCKDOWN

At midnight on March 26 a year ago our lives changed.

Those changes were seismic and the aftermath remains.

For many South Africans, jobs disappeared; the lucky ones had to learn to work from home, while others were forced to mourn loved ones alone, taking comfort from what was happening behind a computer screen.

Just a day before the lockdown, South Africa had been a different place, where a firm handshake was an allowed introduction, and a casual smile in a supermarket had yet to be hidden behind a mask.

Just how much our lives have changed is revealed by the numbers connected to this virus.

And it starts with that most basic of numbers.


The number forever linked to Madeleine van Wyk, the first South African known to have died from Covid-19, and it happened on the first day of lockdown on March 27, 2020.

“Take a good hard look South Africa! Madeleine van Wyk, who passed away a few hours ago was only 48 years old!” her friend Anna-Magdalene de Jager posted on Facebook.


Anncha Kepkey’s husband and family mourn her death at her burial. Kepkey, a hospital trauma centre assistant manager, was one of the many healthcare workers whose lives were claimed by Covid-19. Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA) ANATOPIX LOCKDOWN

The hardest number of them all, the official death toll of South Africans who have died of Covid-19, as of Thursday.

So far more South Africans have died in the pandemic than in World War I and World War II. And it is a conservative number.

Add in the number of excess deaths, which academics believe have spiked because of Covid-19, those taken by the pandemic could be as high as 180 000.


The price of petrol and diesel dipped and soared. Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

The price that crude oil briefly traded at on April 20, 2020 as lockdown put the brakes on the world economy, throwing the petroleum industry into chaos.

South Africa felt it too.

There was a sharp drop in the local fuel price. Unleaded 93 petrol in June last year cost R12.02 in Johannesburg, R3.50 cheaper than at the start of lockdown. But hard lock down meant there were few places to drive to.

The slowing of the world economy had its effect on South Africa too.


This is South Africa’s current official unemployment rate, having risen from 30.1% at the end of March 2020. To try to stimulate the economy, the Reserve Bank has been lowering the repo rate. It now stands at 3.5% having dropped from 5.25% in March.


The number of South African small and medium sized businesses who, in a survey conducted by financial services company Finfind, said they had experienced significant decreases in revenue loss during the first five months of lockdown.


A ban on alcohol sales hit the hospitality industry hard. Doctor Ngcobo/African News agency(ANA)

As South Africans were forced to hunker down in their homes under level five ‒ the strictest lock down tier ‒ a new normal set in.

A complete alcohol ban meant that those in need and who had not stocked up were forced to make their own. By April a kilogram of pineapples had nearly doubled to R22.50, as demand for this main ingredient in an easy-to-make alcohol beer increased.

The downside was that in some places, pineapple beer was laced with battery acid and brake fluid to give it more of an alcohol kick, causing several deaths across the country.


A number that speaks to the mental toll South Africans experienced during the darkest days of lock down. This is the number of suicide related deaths in South Africa between March 27 and July 27, as the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize revealed to Parliament.


People faced arrest for breaking lockdown regulations.

The number of people alive today, thanks to the lockdown and pandemic that decreased the murder rate by more than half. By June, 1 932 fewer people had been murdered when compared with the same time the year before.

In the first months of lockdown, the murder rate had dropped by 55.5%.

Other violent crime categories also saw declines, attributed to no alcohol sales and a curfew.


The number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the first day of lockdown. Ten months later at the height of the second wave, on January 8 this year, it would stand at 21 980 for the day.


Vaccinations against Covid-19 are under way, but the slow rollout has been criticised. Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)(ANATOPIX)

This is the good number, the latest number of South Africans to have been vaccinated, according to the John Hopkins Covid Resource Centre.

That is 0.31% of the population, but it is hoped the number a year from now would have grown many fold.

The Saturday Star

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