Excess Deaths Hit Pandemic Record in S. African Business Hub

Excess deaths, seen as a more precise way of measuring total fatalities from the coronavirus, rose to their highest level in the South African commercial hub of Gauteng since the pandemic began.

In the week to June 20, a total of 2,242 more deaths than normal were recorded in the province that includes Johannesburg, the biggest city, and Pretoria, the capital, according to a report from the South African Medical Research Council. That compares with the 475 deaths officially attributed to Covid-19.

Excess deaths in the province, which are measured against a historical average, have risen for seven straight weeks from 229 in the week to May 2, highlighting the severity of a third wave of coronavirus infections. Gauteng, where one in four South Africans live, has in recent days accounted for between 57% to 69% of all daily national infections.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases has attributed the rapid climb in cases and deaths to the emergence in the country of the delta variant, first identified in India. The South African National Blood Service said Monday that samples from blood donations showed Gauteng had the second-lowest incidence of Covid-19 antibodies of the country’s nine provinces, making it more susceptible to a new wave of infections.

Overall 32,974 excess deaths have been recorded in Gauteng and 176,700 nationally over the course of the pandemic, according to the SAMRC. That compares with an official total of 60,647 attributed to Covid-19. While not all excess deaths may be due to Covid the SAMRC says most likely are. The cause of death may not be accurately recorded if people die at home or in remote areas far from medical facilities.