Eastern Cape tops excess deaths log as Covid-19 infections surge in province

Port Elizabeth residents queue for Covid-19 tests outside the clinic at Jarman Hall as the virus surges in the Eastern Cape city.
Port Elizabeth residents queue for Covid-19 tests outside the clinic at Jarman Hall as the virus surges in the Eastern Cape city.
Image: Theo Jeptha

Fresh evidence of the Eastern Cape's Covid-19 surge arrived on Wednesday in the Medical Research Council's weekly report on excess deaths.

The Eastern Cape is now the province with the most excess deaths since May 6, when the local outbreak of the global pandemic started to have a noticeable affect on mortality.

By November 24 it had chalked up 13,602 excess deaths. These are deaths which exceed the number predicted based on statistics from 2018 and 2019.

Gauteng had 12,730 excess deaths, KwaZulu-Natal 7,795 and the Western Cape 6,662.

Excess deaths peaked in mid-July, about the same time the number of active Covid-19 infections nationally reached a record 173,590.

As of Tuesday, the number of active infections (38,124) was only 22% of the high-water mark on July 20, but almost a quarter of active cases are now in the Eastern Cape as tens of thousands of people from the province prepare to return “home” for the end-of-year holiday.

“Natural deaths in the Eastern Cape have continued to increase and remain higher than the upper prediction bound,” the SAMRC report said.

How excess deaths are surging in Nelson Mandela Bay.
How excess deaths are surging in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Image: Medical Research Council

“Natural deaths in Nelson Mandela Bay have continued to increase, but at a slower rate, during the week November 18-24. There were 420 excess deaths in the past week, an increase from 384 in the previous week.

How excess deaths are surging in Buffalo City.
How excess deaths are surging in Buffalo City.
Image: Medical Research Council

“The number of natural deaths in Buffalo City has also continued to increase, clearly indicating a second surge, with 114 excess deaths in the past week.”

In the Western Cape, the health districts nearest the Eastern Cape are bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 surge.

Infection rates in Knysna (970 cases per 100,000 people), Mossel Bay (746), George (708) and Bitou/Plettenberg Bay (634) outstrip any other district in the province by a factor of at least three.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde repeated his plea on Wednesday that the province should not be subjected to a lockdown.

“We believe that local, targeted interventions based on science and common sense will not only help to flatten the curve of infection, but will also protect businesses and the economy from the negative affect of a lockdown,” he said.

“The Western Cape will be working on specific and localised interventions aimed at reducing the infection rate.”

Winde said announcements would be made on Thursday about interventions which focused on behaviour change and stronger enforcement.

TimesLIVE


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