Excess deaths rise to 11,000 in research council's latest grim Covid-19 update

16 July 2020 - 12:12 By Dave Chambers
The graves of South Africans who succumbed to Covid-19 at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg, on June 28 2020.
The graves of South Africans who succumbed to Covid-19 at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg, on June 28 2020.
Image: ALON SKUY

Excess deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic have reached 10,994 according to the latest weekly estimate from the Medical Research Council.

The estimated excess deaths from natural causes between May 6 and July 7 is two-and-a-half times the official Covid-19 death toll of 4,453.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) team of Debbie Bradshaw, Ria Laubscher, Rob Dorrington, Pam Groenewald and Tom Moultrie said two-thirds of the excess deaths (7,305) were in people older than 60.

Their findings supported other evidence indicating that the pandemic's acceleration in the Western Cape is losing momentum.

“The rate of increase in natural deaths in Cape Town appears to have slowed,” they said. “There were 389 excess deaths in the week up to 3 July, compared with 424 the previous week.”

The Medical Research Council has estimated excess deaths relative to a revised predicted number based on the drop during lockdown. Researchers explain: 'The period has been determined based on when an upturn in the number of natural deaths became apparent. Parts do not sum to the whole because office closures due to Covid-19 may have led to registration of deaths at other offices which may not be in the same area, and random fluctuation at the point at which the baseline is determined.'
The Medical Research Council has estimated excess deaths relative to a revised predicted number based on the drop during lockdown. Researchers explain: 'The period has been determined based on when an upturn in the number of natural deaths became apparent. Parts do not sum to the whole because office closures due to Covid-19 may have led to registration of deaths at other offices which may not be in the same area, and random fluctuation at the point at which the baseline is determined.'
Image: Medical Research Council

The provinces with the most confirmed Covid-19 infections - Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal - were the ones bearing the burden of excess deaths.

How excess deaths are continuing to exceed predictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
How excess deaths are continuing to exceed predictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: Medical Research Council

“There is a particularly sharp increase in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape,” said the MRC team. “Compared with the predicted number of natural deaths from historical data in the week ending July 3, the Eastern Cape had 90% more, Gauteng had 71% more, and the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had 17% more.”

Deaths from unnatural causes have fallen below even the lowest predicted level.
Deaths from unnatural causes have fallen below even the lowest predicted level.
Image: Medical Research Council

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to prevent loss of life from unnatural causes such as road accidents and murders, which were 28% below the predicted number for the week ending July 7.


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