Western Cape Premier Alan Winde gets tested for the coronavirus. File Picture
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde gets tested for the coronavirus. File Picture

Winde outlines what is contributing to Covid-19 deaths in the Western Cape

By Staff Reporter Time of article published May 7, 2020

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Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Alan Winde says they are working around the clock to ensure the province is prepared for the peak of Covid-19 infections that is yet to hit the country. 

In providing his daily update on the province's health response in a virtual press conference, he said they were making sure that "we can be innovative and smart in helping to get more of our economy up and running, and that this is done safely".

They would be relying on insights from data, he said.

The premier said he has received many questions from the public and the media as to why the Western Cape had more deaths than other provinces, and he addressed this by saying the province took these questions seriously.

"Western Cape Provincial MEC of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo, convened a group of public health specialists, as well as academia, to provide an analysis of the Covid-19 related deaths in our province. We have world-class clinicians and epidemiologists in the Western Cape and South Africa, and it is important that we leverage their insights and expertise," Winde said.

"Before I discuss their analysis, I want to make an important point about accurate reporting. It is essential that we accurately report and record every single death of a person who was infected with Covid-19.

"This sounds obvious, but it is not that simple. As we will share below, most of the people who have passed away due to Covid-19 had serious comorbidities. This includes diabetes, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," he said.

The coronavirus can cause severe pneumonia, among other ailments, which can become fatal, especially in older persons and these people with underlying health conditions.

"It is therefore entirely possible for a death to occur in a health system, and for the cause of the death to only be noted as one of these underlying health conditions. To confirm it is Covid-19 related, you would have to have tested the patient for Covid-19.

"This requires well-run hospitals with the right expertise and a heightened awareness. If there is a suspicion that someone has Covid-19 it is important to confirm this, even if it happens after death. This is essential because this information, like the number of infections, provides us with data on the progression of the virus, and its transmission. And this data is essential to making sure our health system is prepared to respond at the peak of the crisis," Winde said.

He said the Western Cape’s Department of Health understood this and took it seriously. 

"We believe that we are accurately recording Covid-19 positive deaths in the province because of our rigorous systems and institutional expertise. It is important that this happens across the country. If it does not, data will become incomparable and the effectiveness of its analysis might be impacted."

"Our analysis of Covid-19 related deaths in the Western Cape, done when we had 64 deaths on Tuesday, found that our death rate is at 1.8%. At this stage, this is in line with international data on the progression of the virus in other countries," he said.

Winde added that as it stood now, the death rate was not higher in the Western Cape than elsewhere in the world and was likely to be the same rate countrywide (accurate reporting of data assumed).

Other observations include:


There is a clear pattern between comorbidities and death, as indicated above.


The deaths correlate with patterns of cases. The growth in number of deaths is linked to growth in the number of cases in line with this rate.


Our age group is slightly younger than what we are seeing internationally (significant number between 40 -60 years old). Our health teams are analysing this further, but it is likely explained by our younger population and the general spread of comorbidities such as obesity and metabolic syndrome.

"Where there is an outlier case (where the person who has died does not meet the trends that we are noting above), our department will undertake a thorough review to try and understand what other factors may have contributed," he said.

"I want to stress an important point here: while the information we have shared above indicates that vulnerable groups are most at risk, this does not mean that those who are younger, or those in good health, should not worry. 

"Not only could you help spread the virus, and infect someone who is vulnerable, you could also get seriously ill. Every single person, regardless of age and health, should be part of our team effort to flatten the curve. It is worth reiterating that we cannot avoid this virus – many of us will become infected," he said.

"Our role is to slow its spread through our own personal behaviour choices, so that more people can receive treatment when they need it. Each of our actions now will determine whether our health system will cope. It is up to us all."

Cape Argus

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