Research

COVID deaths in South Africa: 99 days since South Africa’s first death

V Pillay-van Wyk, D Bradshaw, P Groenewald, I Seocharan, S Manda, R A Roomaney, O Awotiwon, T Nkwenika, G Gray, S S Buthelezi, Z L Mkhize

Abstract


Background. Understanding the pattern of deaths from COVID-19 in South Africa (SA) is critical to identifying individuals at high risk of dying from the disease. The Minister of Health set up a daily reporting mechanism to obtain timeous details of COVID-19 deaths from the provinces to track mortality patterns.

Objectives. To provide an epidemiological analysis of the first COVID-19 deaths in SA.

Methods. Provincial deaths data from 28 March to 3 July 2020 were cleaned, information on comorbidities was standardised, and data were aggregated into a single data set. Analysis was performed by age, sex, province, date of death and comorbidities.

Results. SA reported 3 088 deaths from COVID-19, i.e. an age-standardised death rate of 64.5 (95% confidence interval (CI) 62.3 - 66.8) deaths per million population. Most deaths occurred in Western Cape (65.5%) followed by Eastern Cape (16.8%) and Gauteng (11.3%). The median age of death was 61 years (interquartile range 52 - 71). Males had a 1.5 times higher death rate compared with females. Individuals with two or more comorbidities accounted for 58.6% (95% CI 56.6 - 60.5) of deaths. Hypertension and diabetes were the most common comorbidities reported, and HIV and tuberculosis were more common in individuals aged <50 years.

Conclusions. Data collection for COVID-19 deaths in provinces must be standardised. Even though the data had limitations, these findings can be used by the SA government to manage the pandemic and identify individuals who are at high risk of dying from COVID-19.


Authors' affiliations

V Pillay-van Wyk, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

D Bradshaw, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

P Groenewald, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

I Seocharan, Biostatistics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Durban, South Africa

S Manda, Biostatistics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa

R A Roomaney, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

O Awotiwon, Burden of Disease Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

T Nkwenika, Biostatistics Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa

G Gray, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

S S Buthelezi, National Department of Health, Pretoria, South Africa

Z L Mkhize, National Department of Health, Pretoria, South Africa

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Keywords

COVID-19 deaths; Age-standardised death rates; Age-specific death rates; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 0;0(0):.

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-10-01
Date published: 2020-10-01

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