COVID-19 in Africa: Real toll may be thrice the official figure

The average excess deaths increased to 1,200 per day June 21-27, 2021 from 910 the previous week  

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 07 July 2021
Africa's actual COVID-19 deaths may be triple the reported: IHME

Africa’s death toll from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was 145,539 through July 5, 2021. The actual figure, however, may be 2.9 times higher than the reported figure, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global research centre.

The daily deaths increased by 28 per cent in a week and excess deaths rose by almost 32 per cent, according to data available till June 29, 2021.

The average excess deaths increased to 1,200 per day June 21-27, 2021 from 910 the previous week.

COVID-19 ranked the seventh cause of death in the African Region in just six weeks. It ranked as the 13th cause of death in a week as on May 20, 2021, according to IHME. 

Reported daily COVID-19 deaths (blue) and total daily COVID-19 deaths (orange)


Source: IHME, July 1, 2021

Where are excess deaths happening

South Africa, the continent’s COVID-19 hotspot, recorded over 176,700 excess natural deaths over the past 13 months, according to the latest report by South African Medical Research Council.

Excess deaths saw a sharp rise in the country, going up by nearly 56 per cent in just a week (20-26 June, 2021). Of these, 135,980 deaths are of people 60 years and older

The daily rate of excess deaths due to COVID-19 was greater than eight per million in South Africa, Namibia, Seychelles and Zambia for the week ending June 29, 2021, according to IHME.

The daily rate of excess deaths due to COVID-19 is greater than five per million in Botswana.

Like the WHO, IHME has also raised concerns over inadequate access to vaccines, and circulation of highly transmissible variants, including Delta variant, in the region.

In Africa, the Delta variant has been traced in at least 16 countries, including South Africa.

With over 19,000 cases in a day, the country accounted for over 53 per cent coronavirus infections in the continent, as a third wave of the virus spread through a population in which just 5.5 per cent have been vaccinated.

The daily reported deaths are expected to peak on July 31, 2021, when 900 people are most likely to succumb to COVID-19, according to an IHME model.

This is very close to daily deaths during the peak of Africa’s second COVID-19 wave earlier this year. On January 19, 2021, the continent reported 909 deaths.

The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Africa is likely to go up to 151,000 by October 1, 2021, IHME predicted.

The daily excess deaths due to COVID-19, too, is expected to peak at 2,650 July 31, 2021, according to the institute.

The continent’s total excess deaths due to the infection are likely to be 443,000 by October 1, 2021, with 69,000 since June 29, said IHME.

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