South African excess deaths back to levels seen before Omicron

The fall in mortality adds to evidence that the variant causes milder disease.
Image: Bloomberg

South Africa’s excess deaths, seen as a more accurate assessment of the impact of the coronavirus than official statistics, have fallen to levels last seen before the omicron variant was identified.

The number of excess deaths, a measure of mortality over a historical average, fell to 886 in the week ended January 23, compared with 1 329 the week earlier, according to a report from the South African Medical Research Council. That’s the lowest since the week ended October 24 when there were 824 excess deaths. The first omicron cases in South Africa were identified from samples taken in early November.

The fall in mortality adds to evidence that the variant, while more transmissible than earlier strains, causes milder disease. The seven-day average of confirmed cases in the week ended January 20 was 3 723, compared with 506 in the week ended October 21, according to government statistics.

Still, the emergence of a sub-variant known as BA.2 around the world and in South Africa, has led to concerns that cases may begin to rise again.

Since the pandemic began South Africa has recorded almost 295 000 excess deaths, with researchers at the SAMRC saying almost all of those can be attributed to the coronavirus. The country’s official death toll from the disease is 95 463.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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