Coronavirus in South Africa’s 8 metro municipalities

About 24.5-milion people, or 42% of South Africa’s population, live in one of the eight metro municipalities. Together these densely populated urban centres have reported around 60% of the confirmed Covid-19 cases. The bigger the city, the more cases have been reported.

Confirmed cases, deaths, recoveries and active cases in the 8 metros


The City of Joburg is the country’s biggest metro municpality. With around 5.7-million people, it makes up 38% of Gauteng’s population. More people live in Joburg than live in some of the provinces; for example, the Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape are all less populous than Joburg.

Joburg has reported 41% of Gauteng’s confirmed cases, 72,467 as of 31 July, which is nearly 15% South Africa’s total confirmed cases. It also reported, 831 deaths, or 40% of the province’s Covid-19-related deaths, on that date.

The two other Gauteng metros, Ekurhuleni (3.9-million people) and Tshwane (3.6-million people) – each of which also has more people than the Free State, North West and the Northern Cape – have together reported 42% of the confirmed cases and 44% of the deaths.

Ekurhuleni has 26% of the province’s population, 22% of the province’s confirmed cases (39,181) and 24% of the deaths (489). Tshwane has 24% of the population, 20% of the cases (35,098) and 20% of the deaths (410).

Cases in the Gauteng metros started to increase rapidly around the end of June, early July, but the number of new cases recorded per day appears to have started to fall, and enough recoveries have been reported to bring the active cases down to 19,357 in Joburg, 17,946 in Tshwane and 8,127 in Ekurhuleni, by 31 July.


The Covid-19 stats from Ethekwini, the only metro in KwaZulu-Natal and home to 3,9-million people, a third of the province’s population, look slightly different. As of 31 July, 37,729 confirmed cases had been recorded in the city, which is half of the province’s total confirmed cases. The city also has 52% of the province’s 844 deaths.

In the last three weeks of July, Ethekwini regularly recorded more than 1,000 new cases a day, and even though 15,897 recoveries have been reported so far, active cases were still relatively high at 21,396.

Covid-19-related deaths in the 8 metros

Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape has two metros, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City, together they account for 50% of the confirmed cases in the province. Buffalo City, has 18,764 cases, or 24%, and Nelson Mandela Bay has 20,219 confirmed cases, or 26% of the province’s total as of 31 July.

Buffalo City has 800,000 people, about 12% of the province’s population, and Nelson Mandela Bay has 1.2-million people, 18% of the province’s total, so together about 30% of the province’s population live in the metros – roughly the same proportion Ethekwini has of KwaZulu-Natal’s total population.

It’s hard to tell what the daily new cases are in the two metros because the Eastern Cape provincial government tends to report its Covid-19 stats in erratic bursts. For example, on 22 July the province reported 400 new deaths in Nelson Mandela Bay after not reporting any new deaths in the city for two weeks.

Nelson Mandela Bay reported 657 deaths, or 38% of the province’s Covid-19 deaths, while Buffalo City reported 218, or 13%, as of 31 July. Together that’s 51% of the province’s deaths.

In both Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay active cases started to drop around 7 July as reported recoveries rose; on 31 July Buffalo City had 2,621 active cases and Nelson Mandela Bay had 2,129.

Western Cape

Cape Town had 69% of the province’s total confirmed cases on 31 July, but 66% of the population of the Western Cape live in the city, so it’s not surprising that the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is high relative to the rest of the province.

This was the province where Covid-19 cases started to surge first, but by 31 July Cape Town had reported 56,861 recoveries, so its active cases were relatively low.

The Western Cape provincial government does not publicly report death stats for the districts, so we don’t have data on how many people have died from Covid-19-related illness in Cape Town.

But if you assume that, like the cases, about 69% of the province’s deaths were in Cape Town, then around 2,000 of the 3,040 people who reportedly died of Covid-19 in the Western Cape were likely to have been in the city.

Without subtracting the deaths, active cases in the city were 7,512 on 31 July, but that could be closer to 5,500.

Free State

Mangaung in the Free State, had 8,166 confirmed cases on 31 July, which is 38% of the total cases for the province. About 859,000 people live in Mangaung, or 30% of the province’s population. We have no data on recoveries or Covid-19-related deaths in the metro; these have not been reported by the Free State Provincial government since 29 June.

Data sources:

  • Covid-19 stats for the metros is collected from infographics and media statements published by provincial government departments on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Population stats are from Statistics SA Mid-year Population Estimates, 2019, District_Council_projection_by_age_and_sex.xlsx, downloaded 15 June 2020.