These maps show crowded areas in Gauteng most vulnerable to coronavirus spread

Poorer communities are likely to bear the brunt of the dire health and socio-economic consequences as COVID-19 spreads.

© homophoticus/

JOHANNESBURG - Crowding, no clean running water and poor sanitation. These are the conditions many poor South Africans live in and the perfect atmosphere for the spread of coronavirus.

Gauteng is now officially the province with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa at 109 as of 20 March.

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) published two maps. The first illustrates the areas in the province most vulnerable to the spread of the virus. The second illustrates an index of risk factors that will likely increase health and socio-economic vulnerability during an outbreak or broader shutdown.

Specifically, the maps explore 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.

"It is apparent from experiences in other countries that basic hygiene and social distancing are key to limiting the spread of the pandemic. However, maintaining basic preventative hygiene and social distancing is not equally feasible for all people in all communities," GCRO said.

"Poorer communities are likely to bear the brunt of the dire health and socio-economic consequences as COVID-19 spreads. In addition, with various shutdown measures already in place, they will be the most vulnerable to these dramatic changes in the patterns of social functioning, and the downturn in economic activity that will inevitably result."

The following have been identified as major risk factors in crowded areas:

  • Crowded living conditions make it very difficult to maintain social distancing and isolate sick persons. Crowded conditions also often include a high likelihood of sharing ablution facilities which may also compromise hygiene standards, and facilitate the transmission of the virus. About 14.4% of all respondents live in crowded circumstances.

  • In addition, we considered those who do not have clean running water in their homes or yards, and are therefore either accessing water from alternative sources such as streams or rainwater tanks or from shared points such as standpipes or street taps.

  • In many circumstances this may be combined with shared toilet facilities or toilets such as pit latrines and the absence of running water. In these situations of less than ideal water and toilet facilities, it may be more difficult for people to ensure appropriate levels of hygiene and to practise social distancing.

  • About 66% of respondents who use healthcare facilities usually use public healthcare facilities (this excludes those who said they do not usually need healthcare). During this time, public health services and professionals are going to do everything in their power to manage the spread of COVID-19, but the usual high volumes and long queues in public health facilities are more likely to be an impediment to containing the spread of the virus.

  • Effective communication is key to empowering residents with critical information, for example about the need to limit social contact, or what to do if they do start presenting with symptoms. In these times it is vital that residents have access to publicly broadcast information through, for example television, as well as the means to contact family and friends, or health services if they suspect they have contracted COVID-19. A small proportion of Gauteng respondents, about 1.1%, do not have any form of electronic communication (no internet, no cellphone, no TV/satellite TV and no radio).

  • Lastly, it is extremely difficult to maintain social distancing with the use of public transport and some 44% of respondents in the GCR rely on public transport. Many people working in essential services will still need to use public transport to work in hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets.

See both maps below.

"Some of the key insights from these maps are that challenges to maintaining social distance and preventative hygiene are spatially clustered but that the limited ability to cope with health and social shocks is more widespread, but also significantly influenced by the challenges to maintaining social distance and preventative hygiene," GCRO said.