South Africa joins 'Big 5' COVID-19 countries

South Africa has joined the United States, Brazil, India, and Russia as the countries with the most recorded COVID-19 cases. On Saturday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced the country has 350,879 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

By: Staff Writer, 18 July, 2020

This is a daily increase of 13,285 cases from the 337,594 coronavirus infections reported on Friday.

Gauteng has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 128,604, followed by the Western Cape on 85,411, and the Eastern Cape on 60,976.

Mkhize further revealed that there were 144 new coronavirus deaths, taking the total number of casualties to 4,948.

The Western Cape has the highest number of deaths at 2,593, followed by Gauteng on 956, and the Eastern Cape on 811.

The image below provides an overview of the confirmed coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths per province.

Low number of deaths

South Africa's low death rate in relation to the high number of COVID-19 cases has surprised many people, with suggestions that the country may be underreporting virus deaths.

Bloomberg reported that the official number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in South Africa doesn't reflect the true scale of the crisis.

The country recorded 10,994 excess deaths between May 6 and July 6, according to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

The provinces with some of the highest confirmed infection rates - Gauteng and the Eastern Cape - are experiencing a particularly sharp increase.

Compared with the predicted number of natural deaths from historical data in the week ending July 3, the Eastern Cape had 90% more and Gauteng 71% more.

'Particularly in the Eastern Cape, we are getting a significant underreporting of mortality in villages and smaller towns,' said Ian Sanne, head of Right to Care.

Even though the Health Ministry added more than 100,000 confirmed cases in little more than a week this month, the Covid-19 mortality rate is relatively low.

As of Saturday, there were 4,948 deaths in South Africa attributed to COVID-19, far fewer than the 38,310 deaths in Mexico, which has roughly the same number of infections.

'I'm sure there is some underreporting of the deaths,' said Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist at the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.

'The discrepancy between the excess deaths and the reported COVID-19 deaths could be explained by this underreporting, or it could be a sign that the epidemic is having a knock-on effect on deaths due to other causes.'

Anban Pillay, deputy director-general at the Department of Health, criticized such assessments.

'We disagree completely with this analysis,' he said. 'This is a theoretical argument.'

The graph below shows the weekly deaths from natural causes from the beginning of the year.

Top 5 countries

South Africa now has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than most of the hardest-hit countries, including the UK, Spain, Italy, and China.

The table below shows the top 10 countries ranked according to total confirmed coronavirus cases.

News date: 2020-07-18