File image: Mazeppa Bay, on the Transkei Wild Coast, Eastern Cape
File image: Mazeppa Bay, on the Transkei Wild Coast, Eastern Cape

Wait, did ITV just call Eastern Cape the ’deadliest place on Earth’?

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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The Wild Coast community in the Eastern Cape has united to dispute recent media coverage that claimed it ranks as the hardest hit in the world in terms of the impact of Covid.

ITV in the UK has claimed "when it comes to Covid-19, South Africa’s scenic Eastern Cape is the deadliest place in the world".

Lynne Wilkinson from the Bulungula Incubator in the Mbhashe municipality in the Eastern Cape said the ITV crew spent two days in the area to understand concerns over the challenges faced in getting Covid-19 vaccinations to the rural and remote parts of the province.

In contrast with ITV’s claims, the villages featured in the footage apparently reported five deaths during the height of the second wave experienced in December and January. According to Wilkinson, this was in line with what would be typically experienced during the period.

Locals also claimed rural areas featured in the segment did not have a single positive case since the end of February.

Dr Ben Gaunt, the Clinical Manager at Zithulele Hospital in Mqanduli, OR Tambo District in the Eastern Cape, said while the message that impoverished people in the area had poor access to healthcare is valid, the claim the area was “the deadliest place on Earth” was a distortion of a much more nuanced issue. “At Zithulele Hospital, we haven’t had a single positive Covid-19 diagnosis since the end of February to date, which means we have had six weeks without a case,” he explained.

Dr Gaunt said ITV’s “1 death in 300 infections” number used in its reporting is problematic. He claimed it was reached using a crude excess mortality rate, along with reported infection numbers for the whole Eastern Cape province and not specific locations within the province.

Prof Alex van den Heever, chairperson of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the Wits School of Governance, agreed the data used was objectionable as they weren’t “comparing apples with apples”. He said many countries weren’t reporting their excess death numbers, making comparisons with other destinations impossible on any metric other than confirmed cases.

Dr Gaunt believed if a person was looking to escape to a safer place, "it’s hard to imagine there is a better place than a Wild Coast beach without another soul on it”.

ITV is yet to comment on the allegations.

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