In the period March 2020 to the end of February 2021, in the European Union and EFTA countries for which data are available, there were around 685 000 more deaths than compared with the average number in the years 2016 to 2019.
Data for January and February 2021 show that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was gradually losing its force and falling back towards usual death rates in many Member States and the EFTA countries, with exceptions in Czechia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia and Malta.
For the whole year 2020, there were around 540 000 more deaths than compared with the average in the years 2016 to 2019. In the most exposed period of the first wave, from mid-March to mid-May 2020, i.e. weeks 11 to 21, there were more than 175000 additional deaths, and between October and December 2020 (from week 41 until the end of the year) more than 340000 additional deaths were registered.
The data presented above represent deaths due to all causes. The international comparability of data directly associated with COVID-19 may be arguable due to different rules of causes of death classification, and coverage issues. In a pandemic, the specific mortality may be higher than what initially registered, for several reasons. In some countries, statistics may initially exclude victims who did not officially test positive for coronavirus. Delays in registration may also create lags and flaws in the data. Finally, a pandemic with lockdown measures can discourage people from going to a hospital or consult a doctor, making harder to cure other diseases, which may indirectly lead to an increase in deaths from causes other than the pandemic itself. The death rate draws attention to the magnitude of the health crisis by providing a comprehensive comparison of additional deaths from all causes.
For more information:
- Take a look at the Statistics Explained article Weekly death statistics.