Excess deaths on the way back up as Covid-19 second wave gathers speed

The grave sites of South Africans who succumbed to Covid-19 at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg, on June 28 2020.
The grave sites of South Africans who succumbed to Covid-19 at Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg, on June 28 2020.
Image: ALON SKUY

Excess deaths are on the up again as the Covid-19 second wave establishes itself.

In the week ending December 8, there were 2,543 excess deaths from natural causes compared with the number predicted based on historical data. The Covid-19 death toll in the same week was 723.

Excess deaths are increasing again after stabilising for several months.
Excess deaths are increasing again after stabilising for several months.
Image: Medical Research Council

Between May 6 and December 8, excess deaths from natural causes totalled 56,607, said the Medical Research Council (MRC) team which has been tracking the statistics. May 6, two months into SA's Covid-19 outbreak, is when excess deaths were first recorded.

The number of deaths officially attributed to Covid-19 was 22,432 by December 8. The tally has since reached 22,827.

The Western Cape and Eastern Cape are bearing the brunt of the new wave of excess deaths, according to the MRC's latest weekly report.

Excess deaths in the Western Cape ticked up sharply in the week ending December 8.
Excess deaths in the Western Cape ticked up sharply in the week ending December 8.
Image: Medical Research Council

“Natural deaths in the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town have increased rapidly during the week December 2-8,” they said.

“Deaths from natural causes in the Eastern Cape have continued to increase, with 1,656 excess natural deaths experienced in the week December 2-8.

Excess deaths in the Eastern Cape are back at the level they reached at the peak of the first wave of Covid-19.
Excess deaths in the Eastern Cape are back at the level they reached at the peak of the first wave of Covid-19.
Image: Medical Research Council

“This number is comparable with the number of excess deaths experienced at the height of the first surge in the province.

“Natural deaths in the second surge in Nelson Mandela Bay peaked in the week November 18-24 and have continued to decrease for a second consecutive week. In contrast, the number of natural deaths in Buffalo City has continued to increase.

“Natural deaths in all the remaining provinces and metros were close to their predicted number.”

The sharp increase in deaths from unnatural causes - such as road accidents and murder - normally seen at the end of November had not materialised this year, the researchers said.

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