When the news of the novel coronavirus spread around the world, it was not known how infectious or lethal the...
Who are we
Pandemics – Data & Analytics (PANDA) is a newly established multidisciplinary group seeking to inform policy. Primarily we are looking at data that allows us to count the human and economics costs of COVID-19 in South Africa.
We are a collective of leading actuaries, economists, mathematicians, medical professionals, lawyers and businesspeople working as a collective to bring more data and analytics to the decision-making table.
We work voluntarily, offering our skillset in to contribute to informed policymaking and decisioning.
Our approach is simple: create accessible models that help people, business and government make better decisions. Born during the coronavirus pandemic, we aim to continue providing data and analysis on other major issues related to the South African economy.
We have an open-source ethos and refine our work based on new data, feedback, and informed analysis to constantly reflect the status quo.
We are continually seeking new, non-aligned members to contribute, and embrace critical and constructive feedback from all. Sign up to stay informed.
The COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa
Globally stay-at-home orders have been issued to protect people, save lives and allow healthcare systems to prepare, adapt and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The goal? Flatten the curve. South Africa’s lockdown is no different. Except that it is.
Decisions that were taken early on were based on sparse, patchy data and in direct response to the immediate COVID-19 threat. A rapid lockdown was a prudent decision at the time. But new, more holistic, systems data is now available.
We’ve been counting the human and economic cost of extended lockdown in South Africa. It nets out negatively for both.
Flattening the curve in an epidemiological model does not change the number of viral deaths it predicts—it merely spreads them over time.
The impact of the virus on most of the population, particularly the economically active and school children, has been overstated.
Our research shows that South Africa’s lockdown will cause a loss of life at least 29 times greater than the loss of life it stands to prevent.
The South African GDP could shrink between 10 and 15% if the current lockdown strategy is maintained. The massive job and revenue losses would drive more people into poverty and create a decline in employment of around 2.5 to 3.3 million.
We should not anchor ourselves to the lockdown but rather consider the best next action, considering the new and developing data available today.
Our constantly evolving research does just this. Panda argues that it is time to take the wider economic impact into account based on analysis and data that objectively factors in the real impact on productive lives, and thus the economy.
Understanding “Years of Life Lost”
Our estimates show South Africa’s lockdown will cause a loss of life at least 29 times greater than the loss of life it stands to prevent.
Years of lost life is an analysis that calculates the number of years of life lost when someone dies due to an incident, compared with that person’s remaining life expectancy at the point of death.
This figure can be measured across a population to estimate the aggregate years of life lost (YLL) to an impact.
We ran two sets of numbers. The first focuses on understanding what the reduction in life expectancy would be as a direct result of people contracting COVID-19.
The outcome is compared to a second set of numbers which considers the reduction of life expectancy as a result of the economic damage and/or hardships caused by the lockdown.
Our report finds the impact to be profound, damaging, and lasting.
We estimate years of life lost owing to economic contraction caused by lockdown to lie in the range of 14 million to 34 million years lost.
In contrast, we estimate the years of life lost to avoidable overburdening of health resources to lie in the range of 26,800 to 473,500.
A continued lockdown will have a major, abiding impact on the South African economy, more profound than the immediate threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
We believe the consequences of the continued lockdown should be measured against the economic costs and second order impact.
Estimates show, of the jobs lost due to a continued lockdown, around 500,000 will be unlikely to return quickly. These jobs indirectly support approximately two million people and will disproportionately affect poorer and more vulnerable populations. As a result, the proportion of people living just above the poverty threshold will fall into poverty.
The lockdown needs to be ended, the economy restarted and government and all South Africans need to implement behavioural changes that can curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Panda’s report has been shared the report widely with government and business in the hope that our data will inform decision-making in the highest offices and offset the potential emerging humanitarian crisis.
More on the data
COVID-19 is expected to cost up to 476,000 years of lost life.
Lockdown benefits may prevent an incremental 26,800 to 473,500 years of lost life.
Lockdown is estimated to cost at least 14 million years of lost life.