Excess deaths within 10% of predicted number in latest weekly report

Dave Chambers Cape Town bureau chief
Family members gather to bury a loved one at Cambrian Cemetery in Ekurhuleni.
Family members gather to bury a loved one at Cambrian Cemetery in Ekurhuleni.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

The number of deaths in SA is only 10% above the predicted number in the latest weekly estimate by experts at the Medical Research Council and the University of Cape Town.

Between August 26 and September 1, there were 10,562 deaths. The number was 934 (10%) higher than the predicted number based on historical data.

The number of excess deaths has fallen almost to the highest uncertainty level based on historical predictions.
The number of excess deaths has fallen almost to the highest uncertainty level based on historical predictions.
Image: Medical Research Council

There were 761 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in the same week, meaning the so-called excess deaths are moving into line with the official virus death toll after a period in which they were up to four times higher.

The MRC team said deaths from unnatural causes, such as road accidents and homicides, had continued to increase since the lockdown was downgraded to level 2 on August 18.

Unnatural deaths have risen since the lockdown was relaxed to level 2 (vertical line 5) on August 18. The other vertical lines represent: 1, lockdown level 5; 2, lockdown level 4 with curfew; 3, lockdown level 3 and the unbanning of alcohol sales; and 4, alcohol sales ban and curfew reintroduced.
Unnatural deaths have risen since the lockdown was relaxed to level 2 (vertical line 5) on August 18. The other vertical lines represent: 1, lockdown level 5; 2, lockdown level 4 with curfew; 3, lockdown level 3 and the unbanning of alcohol sales; and 4, alcohol sales ban and curfew reintroduced.
Image: Medical Research Council

“However, compared with the typical month-end increase that is usually experienced, the number was 6% below the predicted number for the week ending September 1, within the bounds of statistical variation,” they said.

Between May 6, when the number of deaths started to depart from predicted levels, and September 1, excess deaths from natural causes were 42,396 based on a revised baseline that takes account of lower mortality during lockdown. Official Covid-19 deaths in the same period totalled 14,110.

A presentation by the MRC burden of disease research unit and the UCT actuarial research centre said the gap suggested that some Covid-19 deaths that occur in the community are not reported, and that the epidemic in SA may have had a collateral affect.

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