AFRICA – Sanlam, which is Africa’s largest insurer, has paid US$ 1.55 billion and counting in death claims since the beginning of 2020, with this year turning out to be the worst with the insurer paying at least US$ 705 million in mortality claims in the first six months of 2021.

This is possibly a function of a bigger market share in the part of the population most affected by the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

However, Sanlam CFO Abigail Mukhuba also pointed out that affluent clients who are normally insured for large amounts dominated the claims.

In the first wave, we had a lot of retail mass [low-income market] that was impacted. And now, with the second wave, it was mostly retail affluent as well as the corporate business,” said Mukhuba.

These figures are mostly just for the second wave since the third wave death claims started streaming in mostly around July and August.

Sanlam’s presentation showed that death claims spiked even further between July and August. And while death claims from Sanlam’s other operations outside SA had been lagging, the insurer started to see a spike in markets like Namibia, Botswana and Malawi during the third wave.

Sanlam said that because the initial rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in many of the markets where it operates has been slow, it has identified a number of initiatives to limit the pandemic’s impact on future mortality losses, particularly in South Africa.

The company, just like insurance counterparts Discovery and Curro, has moved to curate a mandatory vaccination policy for their staff, in what has been termed as ensuring workplace safety and prevention of loss of life.

The insurance company has said the policy will apply to all employees in its South African operations, except in “exceptional” cases.

We would prefer to vaccinate as many of our employees as possible. However, some people may have valid reasons for not vaccinating, such as medical conditions. Such exceptional cases will be addressed in terms of the group’s relevant policies,” Sanlam said.

Last week, Discovery, the country’s largest medical aid scheme, announced that it would make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff from the start of next year.

The private education group Curro will also require that all staff be vaccinated by year-end. Last month, CEO Andries Greyling said mandatory vaccination was aimed at creating a safe teaching and learning space. The company may consider retrenching those who fail to oblige.

Vaccine hesitancy is rife to achieving immunization goals, with new research released by Ask Africa and GCIS showing that only 62% of South Africans are willing to take the vaccine.

South Africa has set a target of having 40 million of the 59 million South Africans fully vaccinated by 31 December 2021.

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