More Than 50% of South Africans May Have Had Covid, Insurer Says

More than half of South Africans are likely to have been infected with Covid-19, the chief executive officer of the country’s biggest health insurer said.

While about 48,000 deaths have been officially attributed to the disease, the number of excess deaths in the country over the period of the pandemic is approaching 140,000 and this indicates the high infection rate, said Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery Ltd., in an interview on Johannesburg’s 702 Talk Radio late Tuesday.

Almost 5,000 members of Discovery’s health insurance program have died from Covid-19, Gore said in a letter posted on LinkedIn yesterday.

South African researchers using blood from 4,858 donors in four provinces have come to a similar conclusion. The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was surveyed in blood taken over seven days in January and showed a rate as high as 63% in the Eastern Cape province, among the regions hardest hit in the country’s second wave late last year.

“The results of the study are extremely important to South Africa as this is one of the largest and most comprehensive seroprevalence studies performed to date,” the South African National Blood Service said in a statement. “It’s also of particular interest as it was performed toward the end of the second wave, which provides a very current snapshot.”

The study couldn’t detect the degree to which these donors’ blood revealed antibodies for the older form of the virus or the newer, more easily transmittable 501Y.V2 variant, it said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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