Corona deaths: mortality is clearly visible

Corona deaths: mortality is clearly visible

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At least 28,000 missing deaths in the statistics

An analysis revealed that in eleven countries examined, at least 28,000 more people died in the past month than was recorded in the statistics. Taking these cases into account, there is also a so-called over-mortality in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain, England, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey are among the countries examined.

The New York Times reports that at least 28,000 more people died in March 2020 than previously recorded in the statistics. The newspaper published the mortality data from 11 countries and shows a clear, if incomplete, picture of the effects of the Corona crisis, which have not yet been noticed.

Mortality is not yet correctly mapped

New York Times analysts showed that the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not yet properly reflected in current mortality statistics. The data are not reliable due to the pandemic. This explains the discovered discrepancy between the official COVID 19 death rate and the actual total increase in deaths. In some countries and cities, the so-called over-mortality is becoming particularly clear, as the following overview shows (source: New York Times, as of April 22, 2020):

  • Spain: Total deaths: 19,700; COVID 19 deaths: 12,401; Mortality: 66%
  • France: Total deaths: 14,500; COVID 19 deaths: 8,059; Mortality: 32%
  • England: Total deaths: 16,700; COVID 19 deaths: 10,335; Mortality: 33%
  • new York: Total deaths: 17,200; COVID 19 deaths: 13,240; Mortality: 298%
  • Netherlands: Total deaths: 4,000; COVID 19 deaths: 2,166; Mortality: 33%
  • Switzerland: Total deaths: 1,000; COVID 19 deaths: 712; Mortality: 21%
  • Istanbul: Total deaths: 2,100; COVID 19 deaths: 1,006; Mortality: 29%

Mortality includes all causes of death

The New York Times emphasizes that the unreported deaths do not necessarily have to be COVID 19 deaths. All other causes of death are also included in these numbers. The unclear picture emerges from the fact that most countries only report Covid 19 deaths, but not the number of all deaths.

Comparison with the flu limps

In the case of flu epidemics, not every flu flu case that has been counted has been confirmed in the laboratory. Here the mortality rate is attributed to the epidemic during the flu season.

Overall, the figures now published speak against the idea that many people would soon have died without the virus anyway. According to the New York Times, for example, twice as many people are currently dying in Paris as usual and far more than at the height of a flu season. In New York City, the number is now even four times as usual.

The reported figures are grossly underestimated

"Whatever number is reported on a particular day will be a gross underestimation," Tim Riffe of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany emphasized to the New York Times. There are some places where the pandemic has been going on long enough and intensely enough to take late death registrations into account, so that a more accurate picture is slowly emerging of how high the mortality rate is, according to Riffe.

Late reaction is associated with a particularly significant extent

The analysis also showed a clear difference between the countries that responded early to the pandemic and the countries that did not take action initially. For example, from March 9 to April 12, Istanbul had around twice as many deaths as expected (+ 2,100 above average). This alone is twice as many deaths as the government reported as COVID-19 dead during this period.

It is also interesting in this context that the increase in deaths became apparent in mid-March. This indicates that many of the deceased were infected in February - several weeks before Turkey recognized the first COVID-19 case.

Delays in death reports

In some countries, such as Belgium and France, authorities are working to include COVID-19 deaths outside of hospitals in their daily reports. Other agencies, such as the UK's Office for National Statistics, have started to publish post-mortality mortality data to identify those related to Covid-19. This provides a more accurate representation of mortality than the figures published by Public Health England, but the data is delayed by around two weeks.

It is common for mortality data to be published with a delay. However, due to the urgency of the current situation, many authorities are trying to provide more comprehensive and timely information. The data is still limited and underestimated, according to the New York Times, since not all deaths have been reported.

The first deviations are also visible at EuroMomo

The first deviations from normal death patterns can now also be seen in the "European Mortality Monitoring Project" (EuroMomo). The project shows weekly mortality data from 24 European countries. The development shown here is delayed, causing many people to wonder that overall mortality is not increasing.

"At this stage, it's a partial snapshot," explains Patrick Gerland, a United Nations demographer. It is a view of the problem that the current situation reflects from the perspective of a hospital-based system. This will change in the next few months and a clearer picture will be possible, Gerland underlines to the New York Times.

It could have been worse

"Today's increase in all-cause mortality takes place under conditions of extraordinary measures, such as social detachment, cordoning off, closed borders and increased medical care, at least some of which have positive effects," adds Vladimir Shkolnikov from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. It is very likely that without these measures the death toll would be even higher. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Jin Wu, Allison McCann, Josh Katz, et al .: 28,000 Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Crisis; in: New York Times (published: April 22, 2020),
  • European Mortality Monitoring Project: Graphs and maps (week 16, 2020),

Video: Why is the mortality rate for COVID-19 lower in some countries? Inside Story (May 2022).