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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU marks first month without excess mortality since start of Covid pandemic

Excess mortality reached its highest point on record, at 40%, during the Covid-19 pandemic in November 2020.

(CN) — Excess mortality rates — deaths beyond what would be expected —in the European Union dropped below pre-pandemic levels, according to data published by Eurostat on Tuesday.

February marked the first time in three years excess mortality across the EU dropped below baseline levels which average monthly deaths from 2016 to 2019.

"An unusual mortality increase during a specific period, in a given population, is often referred to as an excess mortality,” Eurostat said in a statement. “Eurostat’s excess mortality indicator is expressed as a percentage of additional deaths in a month compared to a baseline period.”

In March 2020, excess mortality spiked 13.6% across the EU as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the continent.

The death rate hit an all-time high in November 2020, with excess mortality reaching 40% above the baseline average. With spikes in illness driven by different virus strains, excess mortality has remained over pre-pandemic levels for the last three years. In January, the rate remained 3% above average before finally falling 2% below baseline levels in February.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, excess mortality reflects deaths that may not have been correctly diagnosed or that were indirectly linked to the ongoing health crisis. Lockdowns and travel restrictions may also have lessened deaths typically attributable to traffic accidents.

Throughout the pandemic, rates of excess mortality varied among EU member states, along with vaccination uptake and reported disease infections. Health experts drew clear links between low disease mortality and high vaccination rates.

Two-thirds of member states reported zero excess deaths in February.

Greece and Cyprus reported the highest excess death rates, both 12% over the baseline average. Lithuania reported deaths 22% below the average. Slovakia’s rate dropped 14% below the baseline death rate.

The excess death rate is one of several indicators the EU has been using to measure economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the indicators also provide a pulse for the ongoing impact of the war in Ukraine.

Annual inflation in the EU fell to 6.9% in March from 8.5% in February. Inflation peaked at 10.6% this past October, largely driven by rising costs of energy.

These rates track with the Winter Quarterly Economic Forecast, published by the European Commission in February, anticipating that inflation would drop from 9.2% to 6.4% over the rest of the year. The optimistic forecast hopes inflation will settle below 3% by 2024.

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Categories / Economy, Health, International

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