New data shows weekly deaths in South Africa during coronavirus lockdown

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has published its latest data focusing on the number of weekly deaths reported in South Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The report includes information on both natural (age, disease, infection) and unnatural deaths registered on the national population register as of 7 July.

Deaths recorded on the national population register are provided to the SAMRC on a weekly basis. These have been scaled up to estimate the actual number of deaths by accounting for the people who are not on the population register and the under-registration of deaths.

The estimated numbers are compared with the number that would be expected based on the historical data from 2018 and 2019.

Weekly deaths

The data shows a spike in deaths from all causes, with an increase in deaths from natural causes from mid-May.

The SAMRC stressed that although the bulk of these estimates of the ‘excess deaths’ are due to Covid-19 and related causes, a proportion could be due other natural causes associated with a relaxing of lockdown.

Key points from the data include:

  • The all-cause national number of deaths of persons 1+ years of age per week has risen to 13,684 and is 26.5% higher than the predicted number based on historical data in the week ending 7 July.
  •  The number of deaths from natural causes is also significantly higher than the predicted number, for persons 1-59 years and 60-plus years.
  • In the period, 6 May – 7 July 2020, there has been an excess of 10,994 deaths from natural causes of persons 1+ year old when using a revised base accounting for lower mortality during lockdown. For people 1-59 years the excess is 3,655 and 7,305 for people 60-plus years.

The data shows that the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are experiencing an excess number of natural deaths.

“There is a particularly sharp increase in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape,” the SAMRC said.

Compared with the predicted number of natural deaths from historical data in the week ending 3 July 2020, the Eastern Cape had 90% more, Gauteng had 71% more, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had 17% more.

The group noted that the number of deaths from unnatural causes (e.g. road traffic fatalities and homicides) was 28% below the predicted number for the week ending 3 July.

Read: Plans to introduce NHI in South Africa will not work: analysts

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New data shows weekly deaths in South Africa during coronavirus lockdown