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'Exponential increase in deaths' says Medical Research Council as second Covid wave washes over SA

Excess deaths from natural causes of people older than one climbs to 59,463

23 December 2020 - 18:03 By TimesLIVE
SA's official Covid-19 death toll was 25,246 on Tuesday December 22. File image
SA's official Covid-19 death toll was 25,246 on Tuesday December 22. File image
Image: Reuters

More than 3,000 excess deaths were recorded in the past week, the SA Medical Research Council has revealed in its latest statistical release.

This, the medical body said, was a reflection of the “impact of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic”.

“The weekly number of deaths of people aged one year and older has increased in the week of December 9-15, reflecting the impact of a second wave of the pandemic,” the SAMRC said.

“There were 12,014 deaths from all causes in the most recent week. The weekly number of deaths from natural causes increased in the week of December 9-15.

“In the past week, there were 3,085 excess natural deaths of people of 1+ years, a jump from the 2,397 estimated for the previous week and the 1,114 for the week before that (indicating an exponential increase in deaths).”

In particular, the increase in deaths was noticeable among people aged 60 and older.

On December 9, the health ministry said that 23,661 Covid-19 deaths had officially been recorded.

The official death toll has since increased to 25,246 as of Tuesday December 22.

“During the period May 6 to December 15, there have been 59,463 excess deaths from natural causes of people 1+ years old when using the revised base accounting for lower mortality during lockdown,” the SAMRC said.

In particular, the council said deaths from natural causes in the Eastern Cape were on the increase, with 1,766 excess natural deaths experienced between December 9 and 15.

“This number exceeds the number of excess deaths experienced at the height of the first Covid-19 surge in the province,” it said.

Other findings included:

  • Natural deaths in the second surge in Nelson Mandela Bay peaked in the week of November 18-24 “at a level higher than the first surge” — but the numbers have continued to decrease for the third consecutive week.
  • The number of natural deaths in Buffalo City has continued to increase in the city's second surge.
  • Natural deaths in the Western Cape and Cape Town continued to increase rapidly during the week of December 9-15.
  • The number of natural deaths in KwaZulu-Natal and eThekwini increased during the week December 9-15 and are both exceeding the upper prediction level.
  • Mpumalanga and Northern Cape have also experienced increases in the natural deaths of people aged a year or older.
  • Natural deaths in all the remaining provinces and metros were close to their predicted number.
  • The number of deaths from unnatural causes has remained close to the predicted number.