SA’s excess deaths: what is known and where the gaps are


SA’s excess deaths: what is known and where the gaps are

Health department numbers reflect those known to have died and positive cases, but miss many fatalities

Ina Skosana

In the 2000s, experts from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) built a system to track Aids mortality on a monthly and a yearly basis, using data from the department of home affairs. In 2020, researchers built on this system to track Covid-19 deaths in SA. Now, SA is one of few countries in the developing world that have managed to build a near-real time mortality tracking system. The SAMRC publishes a weekly report ( on deaths in the country. The Conversation’s Ina Skosana spoke to demographer Tom Moultrie about what the data shows.

Who, according to your figures, is dying and where are they?

The weekly mortality report ( provides information on deaths registered in almost real time on the National Population Register. These are used to determine the actual number of deaths that have occurred in the country and calculate the number of excess deaths over and above the numbers that would be expected had the historical mortality trends before the Covid-19 pandemic continued...

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