SPAIN’S death toll during the pandemic was well above average for western Europe, an international comparison has found.
Worldwide 5.9 million people are recorded as having died of Covid in 2020 and last year, but there were 18.2 million more deaths during this period than would have been expected, scientists reported in The Lancet.
The comprehensive toll, tallying deaths directly or indirectly attributable to Covid, found that the total covid death count could be three times higher than previous reports.
Scientists found that on average worldwide, the pandemic has caused 120 extra deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
In Spain, excess deaths averaged 187 per 100,000, far higher than the 140 per 100,000 average recorded in western Europe.
Italy also reported a statistically significant excess deaths rate, with 227 additional deaths per 100,000 residents.
Britain, France and Germany were all below average for western Europe, with 127 excess deaths per 100,000 recorded in the UK and 124 and 121 per 100,000 reported respectively in France and Germany.
Meanwhile in Norway, excess deaths were only 7 per 100,000. Sweden, which held out against formal lockdowns in 2020, had an excess death rate of 91 per 100,000, indistinguishable from Denmark and Finland.
Bulgaria has Europe’s highest rate at 647 per 100,00, not far behind Bolivia, the world’s worst, at 735 per 100,000. Some countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore, did not record any excess deaths during the pandemic.
The study was founded by, among others, the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation and collected data on excess mortality from 74 countries.
To understand approximately how many excess deaths coronavirus caused, the researchers compared reported deaths in the countries in 2020 and 2021 to 11 years of previous data. On average, 80% of the 18.2 million deaths beyond the expected amount were listed on death certificates as being caused by Covid.
Researchers eliminated confounding factors such as natural disasters like heat waves but included data that showed an increase in drug deaths linked to pandemic isolation and a drop in access to addiction treatments. They took special note of excess deaths officially recorded as being a result of diabetes or obesity.
Joakim Dillner, a professor of infection epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm said the paper was ‘very impressive work that gives a picture of the overall global effect’.
Dillner added: “It is the fairest and fastest way to see how the pandemic affected the death toll.”
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