New medical data shows which South Africans are hardest hit by the coronavirus

Medscheme, South Africa’s largest health risk management services provider, has conducted an age-group analysis on the infection rate and hospitalisation of its members.

The analysis was based on 42,453 pathology tests done across the 15 schemes which it administers across the provinces. 61% of all tests were between the age groups of 30 to 60 years,

“The number of tests done in the over 60-year-old population was similar to those in the under 30-year-olds and for both age categories around 5% of these come out positive. This proves that no age group is immune from this virus,” said Dr Lungi Nyathi, Medscheme’s managing executive: Clinical Risk and Advisory.

Nyathi said in the first 100 days of Covid-19 cases in South Africa, around R55 million has been spent on pathology testing alone. The schemes had 2,155 admissions by the middle of June.

Overall, those admitted stayed in hospital for an average of between eight to 12 days in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She said about 27% admissions were in the over 60 age group, compared to 9% in the under 30s.

This upheld the understanding that the younger age groups tended to be asymptomatic and suffered mild symptoms.

“In line with this, we see that those that are below 30 years of age stay in hospital for half the time as those who are over 60 years old who stay in hospital for 10 days on average,” said Nyathi.

“As the age increases, so does the likelihood of high care and ICU admission, as well as the number of days spent in ICU.”

“When one delves into the admissions even further, an interesting trend emerges. The over 60-year-olds who got discharged were not as sick as others in their age group. Even though these over 60 year-olds still stay in hospital for 10 days on average, they have a very short stay in ICU,” she said.


Nyathi noted that it is those patients who die which skew the hospitalisation picture.

When one looks at the hospital admissions where a patient died, it was clear that regardless of age almost every one of these hospitalisations tends to be 10 days long and all spend the majority of their admission in high care and ICU till death, she said.

Over 50% of the patients who died had two or more co-morbidities, and the vast majority of these were hypertension, diabetes and cardiac disease.

“We have seen 173 deaths in the schemes that Medscheme administers.

“50% of all deaths are over 60 years old and there has been one death recorded in all the admissions of those under 30 years old and 6 deaths between 30 and 39 years of age.

“We have not seen as strong a link between HIV infection and severe admissions or death, and we believe that this could be linked to our HIV disease management programmes where almost 90% of those on HIV treatment have almost undetectable viral loads, many of them for over 24 months.”

Increase in cases

South Africa’s Covid-19 cases are on a sharp and steady increase with 6,130 new cases reported on Monday, bringing the total number to 144,264.

A further 73 Covid-19 related deaths were reported, bringing the total to 2,529. Of the 73 new deaths reported, one was from Mpumalanga, five from Limpopo, 2 from North West, 6 from Gauteng, 10 from the Eastern Cape, six from KwaZulu-Natal and 43 from the Western Cape.

“The numbers are picking up and the surge is on the way. Particularly in Gauteng, the numbers are locking up faster than anticipated.

“Western Cape started surging numbers very quickly. Western Cape in June went up by 40 000 people, but in Gauteng as of last night we are close to 3 000 per day,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

With the rapid increase in infections posing a threat of overwhelming health services, Mkhize pleaded with citizens to observe health protocols and maintain social distancing.

“The problem is too many people getting sick at the same time. We want to plead to people to use the masks, hand washing, social distancing.

“During the month of July we are going to see larger numbers getting infected, going into August. We are hoping to manage the situation during this time,” said the Minister.

While the numbers continue to surge, Mkhize said no decision has been taken to have another lockdown.

“There has not been any decision taken to have another lockdown and certainly the National Coronavirus Command Council does not take lightly a decision of that nature.

“There may be a need in some areas for restrictions. It may not be national but localised. But no such decision has been taken as yet,” he said.

Watch: Two types of Covid-19 tests explained

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New medical data shows which South Africans are hardest hit by the coronavirus