The latest data on excess natural deaths from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) revealed that the real number of Covid-19 deaths in Gauteng over the last few weeks might be substantially more than the official fatality statistics.
While the national health department and NICD’s figures are sourced from deaths at private and public hospitals where patients had been tested, many people who die at their homes due to natural causes are never tested for Covid-19.
The SAMRC has found that comparing long-term data on historical natural deaths with deaths recorded since the pandemic started showed many excess deaths.
Researchers have attributed the likely cause of these additional deaths to Covid-19.
During the peak of South Africa’s second Covid-19 wave, 15,935 excess deaths were recorded during the week of 10 January 2021, while the government reported 4,027 Covid-19-related deaths.
Both these figures dropped after the second wave passed, but the SAMRC’s most recent weekly statistics showed that excess deaths were once again on the rise.
Gauteng has been the hardest hit during the third wave of Covid-19 infections sweeping South Africa, with experts and health officials reporting that the Delta variant of the coronavirus had taken over as the dominant mutation in the province.
The Delta variant was first detected in India and was found to be more transmissible than the Beta variant. The Beta variant was first discovered in South Africa and was the dominant mutation in the country until now.
In addition, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has stated that early studies show that the Delta variant may also cause more severe symptoms than the Beta variant.
This increased transmissibility and virulence make the Delta variant deadlier than the Beta variant of the coronavirus.
Coinciding with the surge of cases in Gauteng, the NICD found that the province also had the largest number of excess deaths.
The province had 1,486 excess deaths in the week of 13 June, around six times more than the government’s official statistics of 244 COVID-19-related deaths over the same period.
The following week showed excess deaths totalling 2,242, almost five times as many as the 475 noted by the health department.
Excess deaths were substantially lower in other provinces where the Delta variant has not yet established a foothold.
Nationally, excess deaths for the week of 20 June stood at 3,907 — more than triple the official figure of 1,188 Covid-19-related deaths reported through hospitals.
On Friday, the NICD reported 24,270 new cases of Covid-19 in the country, beating the previous record of 21,980 on 8 January.
The following day, this record was broken again as new daily cases hit 26,485, with 16,091 of these recorded in Gauteng.
A further 478 Covid-19 related deaths were reported over these two days, bringing the official fatality statistic to 61,507 as of Saturday.
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