This paper was first published on the NIDS-CRAM website, where all papers are available for download at

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in South Africa threatens to amplify an unequal and polarised health system, with poor and vulnerable populations bearing a greater share of the COVID-19 infection and mortality burden. Available evidence suggests that preventative measures would have a protective effect against the spread of the virus. However, the success of these measures depends on whether the public receives, internalises and acts on appropriate messaging. Given our reliance on preventative measures for containing the spread of COVID-19, compliance with preventative measures is lower than desired. Energy is frequently misdirected: with higher compliance with low-impact measures aimed at preventing atypical transmissions via surfaces and lower compliance with a first-best set of preventative measures such as avoiding people, physical distancing and mask-wearing that aim to prevent droplet transmission, which is more typical. It is also concerning that only 6% of respondents in our NIDS-CRAM survey knew the three most common COVID-19 symptoms. This lack of knowledge may hamper early identification which is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is discouraging to see that high-risk groups such as the elderly and those with chronic conditions are not more informed and are no more likely to employ effective prevention strategies.

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