Covid-19 deaths slightly up again, says SAMRC tracking report

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Covid-19 deaths slightly up again, says SAMRC tracking report

The virus’s overall death toll could be three times the official figure, according to estimates by the council

Cape Town bureau chief
In the week ending August 24, the number of deaths from all causes was 27% higher than the predicted number of deaths based on data for the past two years and an adjustment for the lower number of deaths reported during the hard lockdown.
The reality In the week ending August 24, the number of deaths from all causes was 27% higher than the predicted number of deaths based on data for the past two years and an adjustment for the lower number of deaths reported during the hard lockdown.
Image: www.pixabay.com

After falling for four weeks, the number of deaths in SA has increased again, albeit slightly, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said on Wednesday.

A team at the SAMRC’s burden of disease research unit, which has been estimating excess deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic, said there were 11,792 deaths from all causes in the week ending August 24.

This is 27% higher than the predicted number of deaths based on data for the past two years and an adjustment for the lower number of deaths reported during the hard lockdown.

“When compared with the predicted numbers, there was an excess of 2,514 deaths in the latest week, higher than the 2,164 in the preceding week,” said Debbie Bradshaw, Ria Laubscher, Rob Dorrington, Pam Groenewald and Tom Moultrie.

The number of deaths from natural causes had continued to fall from the peak experienced in mid-July, but the rate of decline had slowed.

“The number remains significantly higher than the predicted number for persons 1-59 years and for persons 60-plus years,” said the team.

Between May 6, when the number of deaths from natural causes began to depart sharply from predictions, and August 24, there had been an estimated 41,421 excess deaths. The official Covid-19 death toll in the same period was 13,007.

The figures suggest that deaths from Covid-19 and its consequences, such as limited access to health care and the cancellation of surgeries, could be about three times the official figure of 14,263 (up to Tuesday).

Excess deaths have hit over-60s (27,840) more than twice as hard as people aged between one and 59 (13,544), according to the SAMRC estimate.

The researchers said the four-week fall in the number of deaths from natural causes had reversed in several metros during the week ending August 24.

The latest estimates for cumulative excess deaths from natural causes are:

  • Cape Town, 3,847;
  • Johannesburg, 3,806;
  • Ekurhuleni, 3,347;
  • Nelson Mandela Bay, 1,830;
  • Tshwane, 1,919;
  • eThekwini, 1,561;
  • Buffalo City, 1,155; and
  • Mangaung, 643.

Since the move to lockdown alert level 2, unnatural deaths caused by events such as homicides and road accidents have rocketed, and were 15% above the predicted number for the week ending August 24.