More than half of South Africans could have been infected by Covid-19, the CEO of the country’s largest health insurer said as a vaccination campaign started on Wednesday.
Africa’s most industrialised nation has been hit by a catastrophic second wave of infections after a new variant identified in the country sped up transmission and further complicated an already struggling vaccination campaign which is set to begin rollout today.
South Africa has recorded nearly half of the Covid-19 deaths and a third of cases on the continent.
“The number of people who have been infected, in our view, is probably over 50 per cent of the country,” Adrian Gore, the CEO of health insurer Discovery, told South African radio on Tuesday.
Last week, a study by the National Blood Service estimated that 63 per cent of people in the eastern Cape region have been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 52 per cent in KwaZulu-Natal.
Mr Gore added most of the tens of thousands of excess deaths reported in the country were attributable to Covid-19, raising questions over the official death toll.
“There is no ambiguity. If you look at the graphs of excess deaths, where it peaks up and comes down, it is absolutely around the first and second waves” of infections seen in South Africa, he told Johannesburg’s 702 radio.
Last week, data published by the South African Medical Research Council showed excess deaths – the additional number of deaths seen during a crisis compared to ‘normal’ years – in South Africa had reached 137,731 since the start of the pandemic.
This is nearly three times the death toll of 48,000 reported by authorities. A lack of testing could mean many people die without being diagnosed with the virus.
Earlier this month, South Africa received one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines in the first major shipment to land in Sub-Saharan Africa, weeks after vaccination campaigns started in Europe and the US.