SAMRC: Hopeful signs of turning point in COVID-19 epidemic

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Burden of Disease Research Unit regularly publishes the Report on Weekly Deaths in South Africa. Based on data from the Department of Home Affairs of the deaths registered on the National Population Register, this week’s report shows hopeful signs of the epidemic reaching its peak in all the provinces by the end of July 2020.

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.

The epidemic has different trajectories in the provinces. “The Western Cape, the first province to experience community spread, stands out as having a much slower epidemic. It took several weeks to set in and is now taking time to recede. In contrast, the epidemics in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal had much quicker increases,” said Prof Debbie Bradshaw Chief Specialist Scientist from the SAMRC Burden of Disease Research Unit. “We still urge 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.  

“We continue to urge our doctors to ensure accurate completion of deaths certificates especially if it is COVID-19 related, as it will be important in understanding the true impact of the epidemic,” said, Prof Glenda Gray SAMRC President and CEO. “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 epidemic,” added Gray.


SAMRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit:
The SAMRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit was formed to provide information on the trends in the country’s health status as well as causes of disease for future planning to improve the health of the nation. It has developed exceptional expertise in summary health measures, health surveys, and mortality data and health informatics analysis.

The Report on Weekly Deaths in South Africa, can be accessed here:

Release date: 
Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - 15:30
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