Excess deaths soar to 22,279 - more than four times official Covid-19 toll
Excess deaths from natural causes reached an estimated 22,279 by July 21, according to the latest weekly report by the Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
This is more than four times the number of deaths directly attributed to Covid-19 on the same date.
A co-author of the weekly reports, Prof Debbie Bradshaw, said last week that "the timing and geographic pattern leaves no room to question whether this is associated with the Covid-19 epidemic".
SAMRC president and CEO Prof Glenda Gray said excess deaths associated with the pandemic "may be attributed to both Covid-19 deaths as well non-Covid-19 due to other diseases such as TB, HIV and non-communicable diseases, as health services are reorientated to support this health crisis”.
SA's official Covid-19 mortality rate is 1.58%, compared with a global average of 3.91%. If all the excess deaths estimated by the council are included, SA's all-cause pandemic mortality rate would be over 6.5%.
The number of deaths from all causes in the week ending July 21 was 16,223 - 63% higher than the predicted number based on historical data.
This is in spite of the fact that the number of deaths from unnatural causes, such as road accidents and homicides, was 29% below the predicted number for the week.
"When compared with the predicted numbers, there was an excess of 6,256 deaths in the latest week," said the council's report.
Only 915 deaths from Covid-19 were reported by the department of health in the same week.
Two-thirds of excess deaths from natural causes between May 6 and July 21 were among people over 60 - even though most confirmed cases of Covid-19 are occurring in the 30-40 age group.
The council, which compiles the weekly excess deaths report with the Centre for Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town, said deaths from natural causes continued to increase in most metros up to July 21.
"Free State, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West have joined Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and are also experiencing significantly more natural deaths than predicted," said the report.
"Compared with the predicted number of natural deaths from historical data in the week ending July 21, Gauteng had 127% more, Eastern Cape had 118% more, Free State had 92% more, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape had 69% more, North West had 58% more, Mpumalanga had 42% more and Western Cape had 34% more."