Excess Deaths due to Coronavirus: Compare and Contrast

I saw an interesting news item this morning about excess deaths registered in Ireland between 11th March and 16th June, the period that brackets the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the official numbers, 1709 deaths occurred during that time of people who had tested positive for the Coronavirus. During the same period, however,  about about 1100-1200 deaths were registered in excess of the average mortality figures.
One interpretation of this discrepancy is that many of those counted as Covid-19 cases actually died of other causes. Consistent with that interpretation is the fact that over 60% of those deaths were people in care homes, many of whom may have had chronic illness.

Taking 1150 as an estimate of the excess deaths caused by Covid-19 the mortality per million in Ireland drops from 352 to about 237. It must be noted that this figure is still much higher than similar-sized countries such as Denmark and Norway.

The contrast with the United Kingdom is stark. A recent analysis of excess deaths there suggests about 69,000 people have lost their lives directly or indirectly due to Covid-19, which is about 57% higher than the official figure of around 44,000. Taking 69,000 instead of 44,000, the United Kingdom’s mortality rate increases from 647 per million to over a thousand.

I haven’t really been following the reporting in the United Kingdom very closely, because I don’t live there anymore, but the data on new cases found by testing is hopelessly confusing. This, together, with the apparent under-reporting of deaths, may be the reason behind the lax adherence to public health measures over the other side of the Irish Sea.

There is also the fact that daily Covid-19 briefings here in Ireland are led by medical experts, with the politicians taking a back seat (and often not involved at all). These are much more likely to be trusted than politicians, especially those involved in the current Tory government.

2 Responses to “Excess Deaths due to Coronavirus: Compare and Contrast”

  1. Jonivar Skullerud Says:

    Another reason for the discrepancy would be that the public health measures have led to a much reduced transmission of other infectious diseases and hence fewer deaths from those diseases, including flu.

    In Norway, with a similar population to Ireland, a total of 251 people are confirmed to have died of Covid-19 as of today, but overall mortality has actually been down. Which is not a big surprise considering that about 900 people per year will die in an average flu season, including presumably a significant proportion in march and april. So it seems that 300 or more who would otherwise have died this year are alive because of the infection control measures, and it is likely that a similar figure applies to Ireland.

    Note that the proportion of Covid-19 death in care homes is the same in Norway as in Ireland, around 60%.

    • telescoper Says:

      Good point. It’s also notable that right now the overall number of deaths is actually below the long-term average for the time of year.

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