New data shows weekly deaths in South Africa during lockdown vs previous years

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has published a new report focusing on the number of weekly deaths reported in South Africa during the coronavirus lockdown.

The report includes information on both natural (age, disease, infection) and unnatural deaths for all deaths registered on the national population register as of 19 May.

Since the weekly number of deaths has a seasonal trend, historical data from 2018 and 2019 have been used to predict the number of deaths that could be expected during 2020, the SAMRC said.

“In the context of the emerging Covid-19 pandemic, it has become essential to track the weekly number of deaths that occur.

“Deaths recorded on the National Population Register are provided to the SAMRC on a weekly basis and are compared with the number that would be expected based on the historical data from 2018 and 2019.

“The number of deaths of persons 1-year and older are reported because birth registration was put on hold during lockdown stage 5 affecting the number of infant deaths recorded on this system,” it said.

The SAMRC’s data shows that the national weekly number of deaths from all causes of remain significantly lower than the number that would have been expected based on the historical data.

This is mainly due to the decline in the number of deaths from unnatural causes as well as a slight decrease in the number of natural deaths during the weeks of lockdown, it said.

This is reflected across all age groups, with only a slight uptick in deaths reported from the end of April. However the SAMRC’s data shows that this is in line with predictions based on historical annual data.

Sharp increase in Cape Town

The SAMRC noted that the weekly number of deaths from natural causes of persons 1+ years of age in the City of Cape Town and to a lesser extent the Western Cape appear to show sharp increases in the week up till 19 May 2020 and exceed the expected number of deaths for the last week.

A similar but less pronounced increase is apparent in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, it said. By comparison, other major cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria and eThekwini have all trended only slightly higher, are flat and are some cases are even on a downward trend.

The SAMRC said that the number of deaths from unnatural causes – including deaths from road traffic fatalities and homicide – was significantly lower during lockdown than projected on the basis of past trends but appears to be increasing with the easing of lockdown.

On Wednesday(27 May), Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that there are now 25,937 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 1,673 cases from the 24,264 cases reported on Tuesday, while the country recorded its previous highest 24-hour increase in infections – 1,240 cases – on Sunday.

The total number of deaths has now reached 552 – an increase of 28 deaths from 524 reported before. There have been 13,451 recoveries.

The minister said that 634,996 tests have been conducted, with 29,005 tests in the past 24-hour cycle.

Read: Mkhize clears up level 3 lockdown confusion

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New data shows weekly deaths in South Africa during lockdown vs previous years