Provinces may have reached COVID-19 peak: SAMRC


The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) says there are hopeful signs that the Coronavirus pandemic may have reached its peak in all the provinces by the end of July 2020.

According to this week’s report, the number of estimated excess deaths have begun to decrease, consistent with the trend in the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

The information is based on data from the Department of Home Affairs of the deaths registered on the National Population Register.

“To calculate ‘excess mortality’ in a given period, the research team look at the number of people who had died over this period compared to the number we would have expected to have died. The geographic pattern, as well as the age pattern, indicate that the excess deaths are related to COVID-19,” said SAMRC’s chief specialist scientist, Professor Debbie Bradshaw, on Wednesday.

The council said the pandemic has different trajectories in the provinces.

“The Western Cape, the first province to experience community spread, stands out as having a much slower pandemic. It took several weeks to set in and is now taking time to recede,” she added.

Meanwhile, the pandemics in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had much quicker increases, Bradshaw said.

She said they are still urging South Africans to continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, hand hygiene and avoid crowds and congestion.

“Although these data do not have information about the medical cause of death apart from whether the cause was natural or unnatural, the data are invaluable as they provide a near real-time count of the total numbers of deaths from natural and unnatural causes,” the Professor added.

The research shows that between 6 May and 4 August this year there were 33 478 excess deaths.

According to SAMRC, 9 469 were reported in Gauteng, 8 591 in the Eastern Cape, 5 137 in KwaZulu-Natal, 1 856 in Free State, 1 522 in Mpumalanga, 1 122 in the North West, 982 in Limpopo and 386 in the Northern Cape. 

SAMRC President and CEO, Professor Glenda Gray, is calling doctors to ensure accurate completion of death certificates – especially if it is COVID-19 related.

“It will be important in understanding the true impact of the pandemic,” Gray stressed.

“The downward turn of deaths is a positive sign that the virus may have peaked in some parts of the country and is in keeping with the epidemiological models of the pandemic,” added Gray. 

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