Number of weekly deaths in South Africa now much higher than predicted

A new report on the weekly deaths from natural causes in South Africa show that the number of deaths from natural causes in June is significantly higher than the predicted number.

The report, which was published by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), showed there has been an excess of 4,039 deaths from natural causes between 6 May and 23 June 2020.

These excess deaths occurred mostly in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, two of the regions hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the number of deaths from natural causes of persons under 59 years has increased in the week ending 23 June 2020, deaths of people over 60 was significantly higher than predicted.

This is not unexpected, as age is one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to deaths caused by COVID-19.

The report stated that the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal have all shown increases in natural deaths and are experiencing an excess number of natural deaths.

Of some consolation is that the number of deaths from unnatural causes – which include road traffic fatalities and homicides – was slightly below the predicted number in the week up till 23 June 2020.

This is not unexpected. Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed in April that serious and violent crimes plummeted following the national lockdown.

With limited cars on the road, especially with restrictions on inter-provincial travel and a ban on alcohol sales, road fatalities have also declined during the strict lockdown.

This is, however, changing. Last month Cele said that since the ban on alcohol sales was lifted there had been a sharp increase in murders.

Weekly deaths from natural causes

While the rapid increase deaths from natural causes in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape points to COVID-19, the SAMRC said estimating excess natural deaths due to COVID-19 is not straightforward.

The charts of weekly deaths from natural causes do, however, show a direct relationship between an increase in coronavirus cases and deaths in areas worse affected by COVID-19.


South Africa


Western Cape


Eastern Cape


Gauteng


KwaZulu-Natal


Free State


Mpumalanga


North West


Limpopo


Northern Cape


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Number of weekly deaths in South Africa now much higher than predicted