Covid-19: South Africans' life expectancy down by more than three years - social development dept

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  • The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced life expectancy from 65.5 years to 62 years, the social development department says. 
  • 2021 saw a 34% increase in the number of deaths.
  • It has not had any impact on child mortality. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced South Africa's life expectancy by three-and-a-half years.  

Speaking during a BRICS webinar on the demographic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,  Jacques van Zaydam - the Department of Social Development's chief director, population and development - said since the pandemic started life expectancy had gone down. 

"There was a significant rise in deaths in 2021, approximately by 34% from the previous years," Van Zuydam said.

He said this meant the crude death rate increased from 8.7 deaths per 1 000 people to 11.6 deaths per 1 000 people in 2021. 

"Our life expectancy at birth declined from 65.5 years to 62 years. That is by three-and-a-half years. No significant child mortality levels have occurred to Covid-19."

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The country was currently in the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus had claimed over 90 000 people in South Africa.

Van Zuydam said while the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was still being studied, the social development department said hints of it could be seen in mortality and mobility trends, adding:

Without any doubt, the Covid-19 crisis has exposed pre-pandemic fault-lines. Even though the Covid-19 trends are emerging, we are already witnessing its measurable impact on morbidity, mortality and mobility.

He said the most impacted were children, youth, older people and those living with disabilities. 

One health impact that was not anticipated, Van Zuydam said, was mental health. 

"There has been a reported rise in mental illness associated with increased social isolation, disruptions in daily life routines and pressures associated with the loss of livelihoods."

Van Zuydam said the most affected sector by the pandemic had been education.  Schools have had to use hybrid learning systems to reduce the spread of the virus. 

"The consequences of the closure of schools and other training institutions has the potential to undermine the development of human capital required to harness the demographic dividend. Not only will there be a long-term impact on the learning outcomes, but, likely, a lot of young people will indefinitely drop out of the education system."

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