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Don't MissMy Corona

Counting Covid

Adam Oxford
Adam Oxford
2020-07-23

The Covid-19 news from South Africa this week has been bleak: over a quarter of tests now come back positive, and the country has the fourth highest number of daily new infections in the world. The two bright spots of news we’re hanging on to is that there are far more tests being carried out here than in other African countries, and the mortality rate is only 1.5% (in the USA, it’s 3.5%). But mortality rates, as the Washington Post points out in its investigation of India’s similarly low numbers, are tricky things to report – WaPo reckons India and Russia may not be getting reliable data around Covid-related deaths. Anecdotal reports from graveyards coupled with tallies of “excess deaths” above the annual seasonal average suggest the Indian mortality rates are higher than official figures suggest. The same may be true here: in the South African Medical Research Council’s (SAMRC) latest report on weekly excess deaths (see ND passim), numbers are rising dramatically. Since May, there have been 59% more deaths from natural causes reported than expected this year so far. “It is important to note that the excess cumulative numbers of natural deaths… include deaths arising from constraints on health resources,” the report says. Bleak stuff indeed.

Adam Oxford
  • Adam Oxford is a freelance journalist, media consultant and civic tech enthusiast. He also works closely with startups developing solutions to access to justice problems.

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