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One in two South Africans has had COVID-19: Estimates

One in two South Africans has had COVID-19: Estimates

Funeral workers wearing personal protective equipment carry a casket during the burial of a COVID-19 victim, amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, at the Olifantsvlei cemetery, south-west of Johannesburg, on Jan 6, 2021. (File photo: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

JOHANNESBURG: Around half of South Africa's population is thought to have contracted COVID-19, studies and statisticians say, suggesting that the virus has claimed tens of thousands more lives than officially recorded.

The country worst hit by coronavirus in Africa has registered more than 140,000 excess natural deaths since May 2020, according to the South African Medical Research Council.

Leading private medical insurance company Discovery estimates that around 90 per cent of those fatalities are attributable to COVID-19, pushing the real death toll past 120,000.

Officially, South Africa has recorded close to 1.5 million COVID-19 cases, of which just under 48,500 have been fatal.

But statisticians believe those figures are underestimated.

Their findings are broadly consistent with coronavirus antibody surveys, which can detect whether a person has been infected with COVID-19 even after recovery.

READ: Pfizer says South African COVID-19 variant could significantly reduce vaccine protection

READ: South Africa reopens its land borders as COVID-19 cases decline

A study released last week of almost 5,000 blood donors across four provinces found that between 32 and 63 per cent of sampled individuals had contracted coronavirus since the pandemic started - compared with clinically confirmed case rates of 2 to 3 per cent.

Most antibodies were detected in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, both epicentres of South Africa's second infection wave when it started in December, one month before the study was conducted.

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Source: AFP/kg


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