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EU records over 450,000 excess deaths between March and November 2020

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There were over 450,000 additional deaths in the European Union between March and November 2020, compared to the average for previous years, according to EU data released on Tuesday. 

The increase reached its peak — a 40 percent increase over the average — in November, according to data released by the statistics agency Eurostat.

Researchers calculate “excess deaths” as a percentage of additional deaths compared to the average for the corresponding month between 2016 and 2019. They calculate the estimated EU average using data from all member countries except Ireland, which didn’t provide information. 

The November figure followed a much smaller peak in April, during the pandemic’s first wave, which saw deaths sitting at 25 percent above the average. After April, numbers declined in early summer but began to rise significantly from August onward.

The peak in November was particularly pronounced in Bulgaria, Poland and Slovenia, which all showed an over 90 percent increase after recording low death totals in April. 

However, the impact wasn’t just felt by countries that were spared that first wave. In November, Belgium saw a nearly 60 percent increase, while both Italy and Austria neared 50 percent increase. The increase in Belgium was particularly pronounced given that the country saw nearly seven percent fewer deaths in July than the average in previous years.  

While the data clearly coincides with coronavirus cases and deaths, Eurostat highlighted that the data doesn’t discriminate between different causes of death. However, it said that an excess death calculation gives a “general measure of the mortality impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” while using data on direct COVID-19 deaths might be a less useful comparison because countries use different ways to classify COVID-19 deaths.

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