South Africa this week marked the anniversary of its first Covid-19 death, with known fatalities directly attributed to the pandemic standing at 51,110 and with global deaths surpassing two million.
The official mortality figures, however, appear to be a major under-count of the real death toll, from both direct and indirect causes, and not only in South Africa but also almost everywhere, an analysis of Cape Town metropole’s record of deaths has shown.
Beyond any question on the reality of the pandemic and its lethality for some, the Cape Town figures, and those of other authorities, show that at the height of both of SA’s first and second waves of infections and its local variant, deaths jumped past double the usual figures.
The emergency created by the pressure of deaths saw crematoria in the city and surrounding areas go from eight-hour to 24-hour operations for weeks on end.
In hard statistical terms – the number of people being buried or cremated in a given jurisdiction – the pandemic has driven up deaths by up to five times in peak periods over what would be expected without a pandemic, the Nation has determined from extensive investigations of actual figures.
According to Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien, during the peak periods of the first and second waves, “operational hours increased from eight to 24 a day due to “nearly double the demand for cremations during that time”.
“During the second wave of Covid-19 (between November and January), burials increased to double the normal, with January 2021 recording the highest number of burials – 2,475 – across City (of Cape Town) cemeteries,” the councillor said.
In comparison, the number of burials per month prior to the Covid-19 pandemic was between 1,100 and 1,200.
“Approximately 350 to 400 cremations were done monthly at Maitland Crematorium (one of the region’s largest facilities) prior to the pandemic,” Badroodien told the Nation.
“At the height of the second wave, for three weeks, Maitland Crematorium recorded its highest numbers (to date), reaching up to 250 cremations per week.”
The figure is 2.5 to three times the number of cremations that were conducted before the virus struck South Africa.
The experience in other crematoria and burial grounds in the region replicates Cape Town’s, though some have reported higher death rates of up to five times the usual.
Badroodien said statistics were gathered on a weekly basis for burial and cremation and that the highest recorded burials in the Cape Town metropole’s jurisdiction were recorded from January 4-10, when 700 burials took place.
“The highest record of cremations was 260 from February 8-14. By the last week of February, [normalcy] had returned] at approximately 300 [burials] that week,” he added.
Badroodien, like most officials, declined to comment on the fact there are still a significant number of people who remain in denial about the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, for those susceptible to this new-to-humanity pathogen – or even of the existence of a pandemic at all.
In South Africa, like in countries including the United States, Australia, the UK, and some European countries, there are groups of sceptics who deny the reality of the pandemic despite evidence.
City officials also declined to comment on the related issue of vaccine skepticism, which runs in parallel with pandemic denialism, or allegation that deaths rates have been artificially inflated by authorities around the world in order to impose lockdowns and other restrictions on personal freedoms, as claimed by denialists.
However, the Nation investigation of deaths and cremations during and shortly after the peak of infections in SA shows that the number of Covid-19-related deaths is much higher than official figures.
A facility manager who sought anonymity said there was no evidence of supposedly ‘manufactured’ deaths on the part of authorities.
The manager said the officials worked round the clock during peak periods and had “a great many more deaths”, far more than double the usual numbers.
Other sources who sought anonymity, including undertakers, made similar admissions.
According to the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which has been tracking so-called “excess deaths”, those not ascribed to Covid-19, which are an astounding 146,626, and nearly three times the known Covid-19 deaths, were recorded in just 10 months – from May 3, 2020 to March 6, 2021.
Put together with known Covid-19 deaths, these two figures alone comprise nearly half of all pre-Covid-19yearly deaths.
The total deaths for 2019 are still being collated but are expected to run at about 411,500, based on 2017 figures and using national pre-Covid-19 death rate trends.
In some parts of the country, mainly the large metros, “excess deaths” during the first Covid-19 wave were roughly double the normal, the difference being due to the pandemic.
During the second wave, according to SAMRC figures, the ‘excess deaths’ figure in some centres was double, triple or more than even those recorded in the first wave.
Other contributing factors
This is not surprising to those collating such figures with one, an official who could not be named, saying the numbers were “very high” because many people were “dying at home” or in overwhelmed care facilities, with no particular Covid-19 link recorded.
Some were dying because access to health care was restricted, but most because they had undiagnosed Covid-19 infections.
This is considered to be highly likely even in developed countries where similar patterns of excess deaths have also been recorded, though at somewhat lower relative numbers.
It is considered that under-reporting of deaths directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19 throughout less developed regions such as Africa is almost certainly the case and that deaths on the continent, as published by Statista 2021 as of March 8, were vastly higher than the official number of 106,280 – being likely at least double that.
The Nation analysis indicates that the real number of Covid-19 deaths – caused either directly or indirectly across the continent, and based on patterns of excess deaths seen in SA and elsewhere – should be between double and triple those recorded officially, based on even the most conservative of projections.
None of the death statistics addresses the ongoing, and in some cases permanent, harm caused by ‘long Covid’ or severe bouts of the virus that have left millions incapacitated over extended periods.
The Nation investigation over several weeks has shown beyond all doubt that the pandemic is no fiction taken up by governments for obscure reasons, but is very real, is killing many thousands daily, and that its actual impact is vastly greater than the official figures reported.
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/202103170064.html
Author : Nation
Publish date : 2021-03-17 05:33:19