Figures from the European Union’s statistics agency show a sharp rise in excess deaths in July, with Spain and Cyprus recording death rates higher than the average EU excess mortality during the peaks of the Covid crisis.
Spain recorded an excess mortality rate of 36.9%, Eurostat said, while Cyprus had deaths 32.9% above average.
Across the EU, excess deaths averaged at 15.8% in July, with some commentators blaming the lockdown effect, where waiting lists grew and people had difficulty accessing healthcare during lengthy Covid restrictions. Others point to the heatwave that hit Europe this summer, though some countries, such as the Netherlands, have seen rising excess deaths outside of the period of unusually hot weather.
The average of 15.8% includes a diversity of outcomes, with Latvia reporting little or no excess deaths, while apart from Spain and Cyprus Greece recorded an excess death rate of 31.2 %, while Portugal reported a 28.8 % rate, and Malta (26.4 %) and Italy (24.9 %) were also well above average.
Ireland’s excess death rate of 16.3 % was slightly above the EU average.
Between March 2020 and July 2022, the EU recorded four distinct waves of excess mortality, with peaks in April 2020 (25.2 %), November 2020 (40.0 %, the highest), April 2021 (20.9 %) and November 2021 (26.5 %), Euro stat.
Excess mortality for July 2022 is well above that recorded for the same month in 2021 and 2020.
The excess deaths figure refers to the number of deaths from all causes measured during a crisis, above what could be observed under ‘normal’ conditions. !The excess mortality indicator simply takes the number of people who died from any cause, in a given period, and compares it with a historical baseline from previous years in a period which was not affected by the pandemic,” Eurostat says.
While some commentators have pointed towards the heatwave that hit Europe this summer, it was also acknowledged that in Spain and Portugal, unlike other countries, deaths attributable to heat are separately recorded.
“Excluding COVID, Spain recorded more than 2,700 excess deaths than the five-year average in the week of July 11 and nearly 2,500 in the following week. Portugal registered 662 non-coronavirus excess deaths in the week of July 11 and 234 the week after,” Politico notes.
In those periods, heat-related deaths did not appear to explain all of the surge in excess deaths being recorded.
In the Netherlands, a jump in excess mortality in July corresponded with the sharp rise in temperature, but official statistics show that excess deaths in the county have been elevated for months prior to the heat wave.
Excess death figures in the UK are also causing alarm, as the Telegraph reports that “the effects of lockdown may now be killing more people than are dying of Covid”.
Around 1,000 more people than usual are dying per week according to the British Office for National Statistics.
“The Telegraph understands that the Department of Health has ordered an investigation into the figures amid concern that the deaths are linked to delays to and deferment of treatment for conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease,” the paper reported, describing the numbers as a “new silent health crisis linked to the pandemic response rather than to the virus itself.”