A new report out of South Africa shows a “huge discrepancy” in the number of reported coronavirus-related deaths and the number of “excess deaths” from natural causes as COVID-19 cases spike across the country.
The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) released a report Wednesday showing 17,000 excess deaths from May 6 to July 14, while 6,000 coronavirus related deaths were reported.
President of the SAMRC, Glenda Gray, said the excess deaths could be due to other diseases such as tuberculosis or HIV going undertreated as resources were pooled together to fight the coronavirus.
“The numbers have shown a relentless increase — by the second week of July, there were 59 percent more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected,” the SAMRC report said, comparing data from the last two years.
IN SOUTH AFRICA, CORONAVIRUS SURGES AS OXYGEN SUPPLIES RUN LOW IN EPICENTER
And some health experts believe that South Africans could be avoiding health facilities, due to the fear surrounding the pandemic — which surpassed 400,000 cases in the country on Thursday.
South Africa makes up more than half the reported cases for the continent of Africa, and has become the fifth-largest caseload in the world, trailing behind the U.S. which has reached more than 4 million cases, Brazil with nearly 2.3 million confirmed cases, India topping 1.2 million cases and Russia with nearly 800,000 reported cases, according to John Hopkins University data.
“The coronavirus storm has indeed arrived,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday, adding that schools would temporarily “take a break” for a month.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that more than 10,000 health care workers have been infected by the disease across the continent, and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health staff is urgently needed.
CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN AFRICA IS ‘ACCELERATING,’ WHO WARNS AS CASES SURGE
“The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement Thursday. “This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections.”
The WHO also reported that health care workers make up 10 percent of the number of people infected globally.
Health care centers across the continent have been found to be direly lacking in the infrastructure needed to properly prevent the spread of infection, and less than eight percent of the facilities had isolation capabilities.
The WHO has trained more than 50,000 health care workers throughout African in “infection prevention and control” and is planning on training 200,000 more, it said.
Moeti said that 41 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE) are being sent from China to aid in the lack of protective gear.
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Africa has reported nearly 769,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but health experts fear this figure is distorted due to the lack of transparent reporting and testing among the 54 African nations.
So far, 7.2 million tests have been conducted on a continent holding more than 1.3 billion people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.