More stats show the third wave of Covid-19 is starting to engulf SA

Dave Chambers Cape Town bureau chief
SA's latest Covid-19 reproduction number is on the up, says the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
SA's latest Covid-19 reproduction number is on the up, says the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Image: 123rf/ josiepics

Having gone as low as 0.5 at the beginning of February, SA's latest Covid-19 reproduction number is now 1.33.

The latest R numbers for SA and each of its provinces, based on new confirmed infections up to May 29 2021. These are median values, with 95% confidence intervals indicated in brackets.
The latest R numbers for SA and each of its provinces, based on new confirmed infections up to May 29 2021. These are median values, with 95% confidence intervals indicated in brackets.
Image: NICD

This means every infected person passes on the virus to 1.33 people, and the rising number is another sign of the third wave of the local epidemic.

The new R number, as of May 27, emerges in a bulletin from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which is notified of every confirmed case of Covid-19.

The figure of 1.33 is based on new cases, but R is also calculated using data on hospital admissions and deaths in hospital.

The latter two sets of data, while slightly less up to date than the case numbers, also show that the reproduction number crept above 1 around the middle of April.

The third wave of Covid-19 is under way in Free State, the Northern Cape and North West, and new infections are accelerating rapidly in Gauteng, but the NICD analysis says the Eastern Cape has the highest reproduction number, 1.51.

“R is above 1 in all provinces, indicating increasing transmission,” the NICD said. “It is essential that recommended measures to control the spread of Covid-19, including physical distancing, hand hygiene, good ventilation, adherence to venue capacity limits and wearing of masks, are consistently implemented.”

How the R number has fluctuated based on new cases, hospital admissions and deaths in hospital.
How the R number has fluctuated based on new cases, hospital admissions and deaths in hospital.
Image: NICD

The latest SA Medical Research Council report on excess deaths puts the total at 163,946 since the number of deaths began departing from the historical trend at the beginning of May 2020.

Just over three-quarters of the excess deaths have occurred in the 60-plus age group, which is being prioritised in the vaccination rollout that began in mid-May.

Excess death figures also point to an acceleration in the local Covid-19 outbreak. “The number of excess deaths of persons 1+ years from natural causes has continued to increase, reaching 1,897 in week 21 (May 23-29), following the low in week 11 (March 14-20) of 1,031,” said this week's MRC report.

Excess deaths are on the up and running above the upper prediction bound based on historical trends.
Excess deaths are on the up and running above the upper prediction bound based on historical trends.
Image: SA Medical Research Council

“In week 21, the numbers of deaths from natural causes in Free State and Northern Cape remain concerningly high. North West and Gauteng are showing indications of an increase in the past few weeks.

“Natural deaths in Mangaung are well above the predicted numbers and the City of Tshwane and City of Johannesburg are showing early signs of increasing numbers of deaths in week 21.”

By May 29, the national excess death rate since May 3, 2020, was 275 per 100,000 population, the MRC said.

TimesLIVE

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.