Last spring, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of deaths in the EU began to rise sharply. In some Member States, in particular, it was extremely high, compared to previous years, according to data from the European Union’s statistical office Eurostat. Slovenia was relatively successful in the first wave but did slightly worse in the second one. The highest increase in the number of deaths was recorded in November, and we can notice a clear parallel with the so-called “rising stars” among the influencers who wanted to convince people that COVID-19 was not really all that dangerous and that masks were not needed in schools. The protesters also continued to gather, despite the fact that this was not allowed. In any case, with more thorough consideration and adherence to the measures, far fewer people would have died in Slovenia. However, we are currently in a much better situation than most European countries, and strict adherence to the measures can protect us from a second resurgence in the number of deaths.
Statistical office of the European Union – Eurostat monitors, among other things, data on mortality in the countries of the European Union. During the coronavirus epidemic, they prepared a special report, published on March 8th, which talks about excess mortality, or the deviation of the number of all deaths from the average number of previous years – but, as they point out, the number represents all deaths, not just those due to COVID-19.
Across the entire European Union, 530 thousand surplus deaths were recorded between January and December last year, compared to the same periods in the years 2016 to 2019. In the first wave of the epidemic, the peak was reached in April of last year, when the increase in the number of deaths, compared to the month of April in the years 2016 to 2019, was a quarter higher. From mid-March to the end of May 2020, more than 175 thousand people died, and data from the beginning of October to the end of the year shows another major increase – more than 330 thousand additional deaths.
After the 11th week (March 9th to 15th 2020), the number of deaths in the European Union began to exceed the average of the previous years. The highest difference compared to the previous years was in the 14th week (March 30th to April 5th). In the weeks that followed, it decreased slightly, most likely due to the effects of various restrictive measures imposed in the countries. Numbers for the summer of 2020 show a slight increase compared to the average numbers of the previous years, and a new trend of the number of deaths increasing started again from the 36th week onwards (August 31st to September 6th) and became stronger in mid-October (weeks 41 and 42).
In terms of the increase in the number of deaths, Spain and Italy’s numbers rose the most during the first wave
In March 2020, Italy already had significantly more deaths than in previous years. It was the first country to reach the peak: 187 percent higher mortality in the 13th week (between March 23rd and 29th). The number of deaths increased the most in Spain: 258 percent in the 14th week (March 30th to April 5th). Other countries, such as Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, reached the peak in week 15 (April 6th to 12th).
The next peak followed in the second wave of the pandemic in November last year, when the increase at the EU level was as high as 40 percent, after which it fell to 30 percent in December. In November, the increase was the worst in Poland (97 percent) and Bulgaria (94 percent), while Slovenia was already in third place with an increase of 88.7 percent. There is a clear parallel in this period with the so-called “rising stars” among the influencers, who wanted to convince people that COVID-19 is not really all that dangerous and that masks were not needed in schools. The protesters also continued to gather, despite the fact that this was not allowed. In any case, with more thorough consideration and adherence to the measures, far fewer people would have died in Slovenia.
The autumn months saw the highest number of additional deaths in central and eastern Europe
In the second half of the year, after the 26th week (beginning of July) and in autumn in particular (after the 38th and 39th week), the mortality trend began to rise again in most countries, but with different patterns. In the autumn months, mortality increased in the countries of central and eastern Europe. Mortality increased most noticeably in Poland, the Czech Republic and in certain regions of France, Italy, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria.
So far, Eurostat has not recorded all the data for January of this year yet, but the situation in Slovenia seems to have improved significantly, as the share of excess deaths has dropped to 26.9 percent, but we are still among the worst countries. In absolute terms, though, Slovenia ranks among the countries with the lowest number of excess deaths. Among the countries for which data is already available, the countries that did the worst in January are Slovakia (77 percent), Portugal (59 percent) and the Czech Republic (53 percent).
According to the COVID-19 tracker and the CRP data (entries before February 5th, 2021), 24,777 people died in 2020. From 2015 to 2019, an average of 21,129 people died per year. The difference between these two values, so 3,648, represents the excess number of deaths in the previous year. That is 17.3 percent more than the five-year average.
November stands out the most with 89 percent, as well as December with 77 percent more deaths than would normally be expected in an average November and December in the period from 2015 to 2019.