Covid-19 has now killed more South Africans than car accidents or murder every year

Business Insider SA
  • Car crashes, murder, and HIV all kill a large number of South Africans every year.
  • The confirmed count of Covid-19 deaths now surpasses all of those.
  • TB, diabetes, heart disease, and accidents in general are still bigger killers.
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More South Africans have now died from Covid-19 than the annual death toll due to murder, HIV, and car accidents – even ignoring deaths due to the economic impact of lockdown, and excess deaths most likely attributable to the coronavirus.

On the weekend SA officially surpassed 23,000 known deaths among people who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. That puts the new virus squarely among the biggest killers in the country, ten months into the pandemic, and with two weeks left to the calendar year.

Counting the dead is a complex exercise. The official Covid-19 death toll is likely wildly understated, while official tracking of other causes of mortality rely on a range of doctors, police, and other officials to properly fill out forms and properly input data, which too often does not happen.

Analysis of death data is also somewhat slow; the official causes of death for 2017 were published in March this year.

But rough comparisons can be made between what usually kills South Africans in large numbers, and the massacre due to Covid-19.

Here are the annual death tolls for other common causes of death in South Africa compared to the 23,276 confirmed fatalities due to Covid-19, so far.

Road deaths: 54% as many people killed as Covid-19

In 2019 SA's official road fatality count was 12,503, or just about half the deaths directly attributed to the coronavirus so far. With a muted festive season on the road – and the real chance that a second wave sees continued high Covid-19 deaths – the comparison for 2020 is likely to show an even smaller percentage.

HIV: 92% as many people killed as Covid-19

According to the last available data drawn from official records – which are notoriously unreliable when it comes to deaths caused by HIV and Aids – that virus killed 21,439 people in 2017.

Deaths attributed to the coronavirus after testing breached that number at the end of November, ten months after the virus was identified as a global emergency.

Flu: half as many people killed as Covid-19

Seemingly thanks to the timing of hard lockdown, South Africa skipped the traditional flu season in 2020. In a normal year, though, the best estimate is that some 11,800 people die due to seasonal influenza every year, very close to half the count so far due to the coronavirus.

Murder: 92% as many people killed as Covid-19

In the last reported full year, according to statistics from the SA Police Service, 21,325 people were murdered in South Africa.

Bigger killers than Covid-19: accidents, TB, diabetes, and hearts

Using an international classification of causes of death, which bundles all types of TB together but separates different forms of heart disease, these are the things that killed more people in 2017 than have been confirmed to have died to the coronavirus in South Africa so far:

  • Accidental injury
  • Tuberculosis
  • Diabetes
  • Cerebrovascular diseases
  • Other forms of heart disease
(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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