Medical Research Council records 11 000 'excess deaths' between May and June

Weekly deaths from all causes.
Weekly deaths from all causes.
  • The SA Medical Research Council has recorded an excess of almost 11 000 deaths between 6 May and 7 July.
  • This means there were almost 11 000 more deaths than predictions suggested based on historical data. 
  • It is still unclear how many of these deaths can be attributed to Covid-19 or the lockdown.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has recorded almost 11 000 "excess deaths" from natural causes in their Weekly Death Report on Tuesday.

"Excess deaths" means that nationally, from 6 May to 7 July, 10 994 more deaths from natural causes were recorded than anticipated, the report said. 

It also means that reported deaths have shown a pattern that are completely different to those indicated by historical trends.

READ | Deaths in SA rise significantly higher than predicted - SAMRC report

"In the period, 6 May-7 July 2020, there has been an excess of 10 994 deaths from natural causes of persons 1+ year old when using a revised base accounting for lower mortality during lockdown.

"For people 1-59 years, the excess is 3 655 and 7 ,305 for people 60+ years," the report said.

While the cause of this is probably due largely to Covid-19 and the lockdown, it is too early to tell what the main cause of death is.

"It is important to point out that although the bulk of these estimates of the 'excess deaths' are due to Covid-19 and related causes, a proportion could be due other natural causes associated with a relaxing of lockdown".

In general, SAMRC reported that deaths from all causes of people one-year-old and up increased to 13 684 – 26.5% higher than predictions made based on historical patterns.

However, the number of unnatural deaths was far lower than what was predicted – 28% lower than the predicted number for the week ending in 3 July.

Number of excess natural deaths (Sourced: SAMRC)
Number of excess natural deaths.

Provincial breakdown

According to the report, increases in natural deaths have slowed down in the City of Cape Town. In the period leading up to 3 July 2020, the city recorded 389 excess deaths compared to 424 before that, the study said.

Number of excess deaths from all causes by provinc
Number of excess deaths from all causes by province.

However, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have shown excess deaths.

"Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are experiencing an excess number of natural deaths. There is a particularly sharp increase in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

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"Compared with the predicted number of natural deaths from historical data in the week ending 3 July 2020, the Eastern Cape had 90% more, Gauteng had 71% more, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had 17% more," the report said.

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