Excess deaths continue to rise in Eastern Cape

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The number of excess deaths in the Eastern Cape continues to rise, with the latest available data released by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) indicating 10 489 excess deaths.

Most of these are in the rural parts of the province. This is the second highest number in the country. Only Gauteng has a higher number of reported excess deaths, at 11 909.

My greatest fear is that these statistics indicate that the pandemic is more prevalent in our province, than what is actually being recorded.

The SAMRC establishes the excess death figures by comparing the actual number of deaths with the expected number of deaths based on historical data from 2018 and 2019. Additional Data strongly supports the view that a significant number of these excess deaths could be attributable to Covid -19.

At the end of July, there were 7597 excess deaths in the Eastern Cape. The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, released a directive that all mortalities undergo posthumous testing, to reduce the number of excess deaths.

However, since then, the Eastern Cape has experienced a further 2892 excess deaths, up to the week of the 6 October. THE DA has reliably learnt that many of these mortalities have not been tested for Covid-19, despite the national directive from the Health Minister.

Why were these mortalities not tested posthumously? And how many people did these individuals come into contact with, before they died?

How can a tracking and tracing strategy be initiated when the Covid-19 status of the deceased is unknown?

A comprehensive testing strategy is the only accurate means of establishing the true extent of the pandemic in the province. This must be coupled with an intensive tracking and tracing programme to find and test all direct contacts of Covid-19 patients, whether alive or deceased.

Covid-19 statistics from the Eastern Cape Department of Health remain irregular and inaccessible to the public. The dashboard, which is now functional but seemingly not for public consumption, has updated figures but still refers to bed availability on the 20th of April.

I will once again write to the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, to request that daily information be released, including Covid-19 hotspots and cluster outbreaks, so that citizens across the province can make informed decisions regarding the risk associated with their daily activities.

In the DA – led Western Cape, the number of excess deaths has been far lower due to a comprehensive Covid-19 testing strategy. The public can also access information about the pandemic at the touch of a button. This is what one should expect from a competent state. Our citizens deserve the same.