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COVID-19 may have killed 1 of every 200 South Africans, 3 times the official rate

March 10, 2022, 9:34 AM UTC

The coronavirus may have killed one in every 200 South Africans.

Excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, seen as a more accurate way of measuring its impact than official statistics, climbed to 301,106 in the week ended March 5, according to South African Medical Research Council data released on Wednesday. That’s triple the official fatality rate of just under 100,000.

The number of deaths per 100,000 people was 506 in a nation of 60 million, according to the council. Researchers say almost all of the excess deaths, which plots mortality against a historical average, are due to the virus. 

The level of deaths in the country with the highest official COVID-19 infections and deaths in Africa compares with about 200 per 100,000 in the U.K., but is well below the 680 in Peru and 760 in Russia, according to the World Mortality Dataset. Across Africa, South Africa is the only country to compile the data.

“It is very high,” said Tom Moultrie, a demography professor at the University of Cape Town who helps compile the report. “The excess deaths are really the flag in the ground, which tells us what’s going on with COVID.”

Across South Africa, excess mortality rates vary widely, skewing higher in poorer provinces. The death rate per 100,000 people in the Eastern Cape, South Africa’s poorest province, is 790, while it is 377 in Gauteng, the richest region. Gauteng also has a younger population than the Eastern Cape.

“There clearly are socioeconomic gradients, some provinces are richer than others,” Moultrie said.

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