Oh ITV, what have you done? The UK broadcaster landed itself in the bad books of the Eastern Cape scientific community this week – after reporter John Irvine branded the province ‘the deadliest place on Earth‘ in relation to COVID.

Is the Eastern Cape the deadliest place on Earth? Doctors, professors not convinced…

The three-minute piece details the struggles South Africa is facing when it comes to vaccinating its rural populations. In fairness, this WILL be a huge challenge in the months ahead, and solutions are needed to make these jabs more accessible for those living in remote areas. However, Irvine has been accused of ‘taking liberties’ with the data.

Medical experts in the Eastern Cape have comprehensively rejected the ‘deadliest place on Earth’ tag, arguing that it is based on crude estimates that have little relevance to the villages featured on camera.

Why the ITV report on the Eastern Cape is ‘problematic’

A collective of experts* have come together to denounce the news report, which aired on ITV over the weekend. As well as objecting to the ‘sensationalist tone’ of the production, the following complaints were also raised:

  • – The villages featured in the footage ‘reported just five deaths’ during the height of the second wave.
  • – It’s claimed that the data used in the article is ‘objectionable’, with ITV drawing ‘unfair conclusions’
  • – Zithulele Hospital (in the featured district of Mqanduli) hasn’t had a single positive COVID-19 diagnosis ‘since the end of February’.
  • – The “1 death for every 300 infections” figure is based on a problematic interpretation of regional excess deaths.
  • – This number also includes data for the urban metros of Gqeberha and East London, and not specific locations within the province. Therefore, identifying these rural locations as ‘the deadliest place on Earth’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

* –The collective of experts includes Professor Alex van den Heever, Chair of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at Wits University Dr. Ben Gaunt, the Clinical Manager at Zithulele Hospital in Mqanduli, OR Tambo District, and Lynne Wilkinson, of the Bulungula Incubator Charity in the Mbhashe Municipality.

‘Deadliest? It’s one of the safest places, actually’…

Authorities in the Eastern Cape are now fighting back against the ‘reputational damage’ this broadcast could cause for the region – which is heavily reliant on income from tourism. Dr. Gaunt is leading the charge, and he puts it to ITV that the Wild Coast may actually be one of the SAFEST places to visit during a pandemic, due to its vast open spaces.

“We should be very clear about the messaging with regards to our very real challenges with local communities – but we should not make sweeping sensationalist claims. From my perspective, 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.”

You can watch ITV’s controversial report on the Eastern Cape here


Presh JM Reporter

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