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Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Gauteng

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the GCRO is working quickly and collaboratively to compile data and visualisations to inform disaster response planning. We are focussing on the spatial distribution of some key risks and vulnerabilities in communities at a ward level based on the framework of syndemics which examines the consequences of epidemics as they interact with other diseases, in conjunction with social, environmental and economic factors that both facilitate their spread, and in turn compound their impact. See here and here for useful articles that explain this framework.

As an initial response GCRO dedicated its March 2020 Map of the Month to understanding the localised risk factors that might contribute to the spread of COVID-19, and might amplify its health and socio-economic impact, in Gauteng communities. Specifically, the maps explored two key themes: (1) the multiple risk factors to maintaining basic preventative hygiene and social distancing; and (2) the multiple risk factors in the context of major shutdowns and potential outbreaks.

The work continues beyond this Map of the Month publication. We hope to deepen our analysis by exploring the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 through indicators such as mental health, access to transport and amenities, and clinical data such as hospital beds and critical care beds in relation to population density. Additional work may examine vulnerabilities and the intersection of gender and age.

A key part of this project will be to collaborate with our government partners and other key stakeholders such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and research organisations like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Currently, fieldwork for the Quality of Life VI (2020) survey has been put on hold but once it is safe to begin, we will be including questions on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown.

As with the spread of the virus, this is a rapidly evolving project and we will be posting updates here as and when they are available.

Seminar series: Collecting social data: adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic

This seminar series brings together social researchers from a range of disciplines to explore different approaches to collecting social data during the COVID pandemic. It provides an opportunity for researchers to share learnings and innovations with a diverse audience, discuss challenges with colleagues with different backgrounds, and contribute to the collective strengthening of social research during this unique and challenging time. The seminar series is a collaboration between the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Social Surveys Africa and Human Sciences Research Council.
The next seminar is:

Trackers and panels

Thursday, 13 August 2020

10am-12pm (SAST)

Details for forthcoming seminars are available here. Presentation materials for past seminars are available for download here.

GCRO's COVID-19 outputs to date

Household characteristics in relation to COVID-19 risks in Gauteng (30 June 2020)

In the context of COVID-19, different household characteristics are likely to influence exposure to various factors which might increase vulnerability to aspects of the pandemic. This visualisation explores the relationships between various household characteristics and exposure to a range of factors that are expected to impact vulnerability in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

De-densifying Gauteng: A thought experiment (29 May 2020)

As we come to grips with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, urban population density is being fiercely debated. In our May Map of the Month we engaged in this debate first with a 3D population density map of Gauteng, using modelled population estimates. Second, we consider some of the benefits and drawbacks of high density settlements in the context of COVID-19 as well as the task of lowering the peak densities in the province. We have developed an interactive visualisation to give some sense of the size of the de-densification task in Gauteng, if it was to be pursued. This interactive visualisation represents a thought experiment and an attempt to understand the relationship between density, population size and land area. The visualisation demonstrates that ‘lowering the peaks of density’ would be an enormous, if not impossible, undertaking.

Gauteng's elderly in the context of COVID-19 (17 April 2020)

In light of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the elderly, this interactive visualisation uses data from our Quality of Life V survey (2017/18) to better understand the lives of the elderly in Gauteng province. In particular, we look at how the elderly form parts of families and households, and fulfill key caregiving and economic roles in the province. South Africa’s apartheid history has left Gauteng, and South Africa, with substantially different population-age structures for different population groups.

Income vulnerability in Gauteng (21 April 2020)

Using the GCRO's Quality of Life V data, this interactive visualisation looks at the various forms of income that people depend on to sustain themselves in Gauteng.

Households vulnerable to income disruption (6 April 2020)

Disruptions in household income flows due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown pose serious risks - both to individuals and households, but also to the effectiveness of the lockdown itself. When income flows are severely disrupted, household members may experience a reduction in food, interruptions to the management of chronic disease, and acute stress, increasing vulnerability to infectious disease. In this Insight, we look at household income streams and highlight those income types most likely to be disrupted. This Insight has been published as a single PDF document.

Challenges in accessing food during a lockdown (6 April 2020)

The current implementation of a lockdown has created a number of additional challenges for many households in accessing adequate food. In this Insight, we consider the difficulties that people experience to physically get to a retailer to purchase uncooked food, and then store perishable items. This Insight has been published as a single PDF document.COVID-19 cases in South Africa by province (31 March 2020)

COVID-19 cases in South Africa by province (31 March 2020)

This interactive visualisation tracks the number of confirmed positive cases in South Africa per province, as reported by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

COVID-19 risk indices per municipality and metropolitan municipality planning region (6 April 2020)

GCRO has developed some analysis to help understand COVID-19-related risks at different geographic scales. The purpose of this Insight is (1) to present different COVID-19 risk levels at the municipal level in Gauteng, and (2) between the different planning regions in the three metros (Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and Tshwane). This could help each metro to further understand and prioritise COVID-19 responses in terms of where efforts can be focused and what types of efforts might be required. This Insight has been published as a single PDF document.

Relating COVID-19 risk indices to population density in Gauteng (2 April 2020)

The March 2020 Map of the Month considered household crowding as one of the variables in the indices of risk factors, but the publication did not explore the influence of population density in detail. Population density beyond the household level will have a critical influence on the management of COVID-19 pandemic because it has a particularly significant impact on one’s ability to maintain adequate social distance and provide suitable assistance to residents, like providing enough medical care and keeping basic services working. These data visualisations examine how population density in Gauteng might affect strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and assess how population density influences vulnerability to the health and social impacts during the pandemic and broader shut down in the province.

Accompanying these data visualisations are:

  1. Excel spreadsheet of the ward-level data of the risk indices and population density;
  2. PDF of Map 1 (Index of risk factors to maintaining social distance and preventative hygiene related to population density per ward in Gauteng);
  3. PDF of Map 2 (Index of risk factors to health and social vulnerability related to population density per ward in Gauteng);
  4. PDF of Map 3 (The 100 most at risk wards related to where 50% of the Gauteng population live).

Mapping vulnerability to COVID-19 in Gauteng (20 March 2020)

The March 2020 Map of the Month was dedicated to understanding the localised risk factors that might contribute to the spread of COVID-19, and might amplify its health and socio-economic impact, in Gauteng communities.

Here are a number of resources associated with this output:

  1. Additional material to the March 2020 Map of the Month Mapping vulnerability to COVID-19 in Gauteng, including detail maps and technical notes;
  2. Excel spreadsheet of the ward-level data used to map the two vulnerability indexes in the March 2020 Map of the Month;
  3. Excel spreadsheet of the ward-level data of preexisting health conditions from GCRO QoL V (2017/18) survey;
  4. KMZ file of the ward-level data for Index 1 - Vulnerability to social distancing and preventative hygiene;
  5. KMZ file of the ward-level data for Index 2 - Health and social vulnerability in the event of an outbreak or shutdown.

Direct support to government

In addition to work on its own research outputs, GCRO has been asked to provide support to various government-led responses to the crisis. This work has included the following:

  1. On request from the Office of the Premier, GCRO has been working to try connect decision-making in the Gauteng COVID-19 Command Centre with various processes of localised spread mapping and modelling.
  2. GCRO was asked by the Solidarity Fund to support the targeting of its national food distribution efforts by mapping: high priority wards across the country based on an index of multiple deprivation; the presence of civil society organisations potentially involved in food distribution; and therefore gaps in coverage of key areas of need.
  3. The City of Johannesburg's Department of Development Planning also asked GCRO for mapped data on its index of vulnerability to the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown in order to help target the City's own distribution of food parcels.

Additional GCRO Resources

The Quality of Life V survey (2017/18) is a valuable data source for much of our analysis. The dataset is freely available for non-commercial purposes and can be downloaded from UCT's DataFirst platform or requested directly from the GCRO by sending an email to Dr Julia de Kadt ( and Yashena Naidoo (

External Resources

A spreadsheet of data sources compiled by the SDG Hub at the University of Pretoria.

Data and mapping coordination:

Data dashboards and visualisations in South Africa:


Rob Moore, Julia de Kadt and Alexandra Parker (August 2020) 'Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Gauteng', Urban Observatories And COVID-19 webinars, 3 & 6 August 2020.

Gillian Maree, Graeme Gotz and Alexandra Parker (July 2020) 'Responding to COVID-19 in the GCR: Data insights', COVID-19 Modelling Webinar Series, 29 July 2020.

Graeme Gotz and Gillian Maree (on behalf of GCRO COVID-19 team) (July 2019). 'COVID-19: Insights from infection data in Gauteng', Gauteng COVID0-19 Command Centre (Warroom), 9 July 2020.

Gillian Maree (July 2020). ' The Spatial Distribution of Risks and Vulnerabilities: The GCRO Covid-19 Gauteng Map', Presentation to the UKZN Centre for Civil Society Webinar, 1 July 2020.

Gillian Maree (June 2020). 'Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: GCRO research outputs', presentation to Gauteng Together, 9 June 2020.

Alexandra Parker on behalf of the team (March 2020). 'Mapping vulnerability to Covid-19', GPG EXCO meeting, GPG Offices, 23 March 2020.

Media coverage

The article 'Gauteng Covid-19 visualisation platform enables monitoring, prediction' by Schalk Burger in Creamer's Engineering News highlights GCRO’s collaborative work with Gauteng Provincial Government, IBM and WIts University on a live interactive COVID-19 dashboard, 7 July 2020.

Alexandra Parker was interviewed on eNCA on Friday 3 July 2020 in connection with the March 2020 Map of the Month Mapping vulnerability to COVID-19 in Gauteng.

GCRO’s collaborative work with Gauteng Provincial Government, IBM and WIts University on a live interactive COVID-19 dashboard is featured in an interview for IT News Africa ‘INTERVIEW: How IBM and WITS are Enabling Data-Driven Decisions to Flatten the COVID-19 Curve’ written by Jenna Delport, 2 July 2020.

GCRO’s research on Households vulnerable to income disruption and Income vulnerability in Gauteng in relation to COVID-19 was featured in an article ‘As Covid-19 explodes in Gauteng, Dlamini Zuma must make Lockdown 2.0 decision’ by Ferial Haffajee in Daily Maverick on 2 July 2020.

GCRO’s visualisation on Gauteng’s elderly was mentioned in an article for the Daily Maverick “Now we are all Swedes: Covid-19, eugenics and sacrificing the ‘older older’; by Steven Robins on 10 June 2020 and in an article for Health-e News ‘CoronavirusSA: Household members a massive risk to each other’ by Bibi-Aisha Wadvalla on 24 June 2020.

Christina Culwick was interviewed about the May Map of the Month 'De-densifying Gauteng' on Kaya FM (29 May 2020) and Voice of Wits (2 June 2020).

GCRO's analysis on income vulnerability in relation to COVID-19 was mentioned in an article 'Olievenhoutbosch's most vulnerable hit hard by Covid-19 lockdown' by Belinda Pheto in the Sunday Times, 10 May 2020.

The analysis on the elderly in Gauteng was featured in an article '"They can’t survive if I die": Stalwart gogos fear for their families', in the Sunday Times, by Graeme Hosken on 10 May 2020.

Julia de Kadt published an op-ed on data during the COVID-19 pandemic titled 'COVID-19 highlights South Africa’s need for local level social data', The Conversation Africa, on 11 May 2020.

Alexandra Parker and Julia de Kadt published an op-ed on Gauteng's elderly with The Conversation Africa titled 'Our research shows why it’s vital to protect older South Africans from coronavirus' on 26 April 202 which led to other republications and an interview with Azania Mosaka on 702 Talk Radio on 27 April 2020, available here.

GCRO's insight on 'Households vulnerable to income disruption' related to COVID-19 was featured in 'Income cuts pose serious threat to lockdown' by Sheree Bega, published on 13 April 2020 in the Saturday Star.

Analysis on COVID-19, initially published in GCRO's March 2020 Map of the Month, Mapping vulnerability to COVID-19 in Gauteng, is featured in several publications including the front page of The Saturday Star; Eyewitness News and the Daily Maverick. Related to this work Graeme Gotz was interviewed on NewzroomAfrika with Stephen Grootes and Gillian Maree was interviewed on SABC radio news, both on 25 March 2020.

Academic papers citing GCRO's COVID-19 research

de V Castelyn, C., Viljoen, I. M., Dhai, A., & Pepper, M. S. (2020). Resource allocation during COVID-19: A focus on vulnerable populations. South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 13 (1).

Franch-Pardo, I., Napoletano, B. M., Rosete-Verges, F., & Billa, L. (2020). Spatial analysis and GIS in the study of COVID-19. A review. Science of The Total Environment, 140033.

Gibson, L., & Rush, D. (2020). Novel Coronavirus in Cape Town Informal Settlements: Feasibility of Using Informal Dwelling Outlines to Identify High Risk Areas for COVID-19 Transmission From A Social Distancing Perspective. JMIR public health and surveillance, 6(2), e18844.

Last updated: 4 August 2020.


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