For first time since pre-pandemic, February 2023 saw no excess mortality in EU

For the first time since February 2020 (the pre-Covid-19 pandemic period), there was no excess mortality in the European Union as a whole, EU statistics agency Eurostat said on April 18.

Excess mortality refers to the number of deaths from all causes measured during a crisis, above what could be observed in “normal” conditions.

The excess mortality indicator draws attention to the magnitude of the health crisis by providing a comprehensive comparison of additional deaths amongst European countries and allows for further analysis of the causes, the statistics agency said.

Eurostat said that while a substantial increase in excess mortality largely coincided with the Covid-19 outbreak, this indicator did not discriminate among the causes of death and does not identify differences between sex or age.

In February 2023, the indicator fell below the baseline (average number of deaths for the same period in 2016-2019) to -2 per cent.

In comparison, the excess mortality rate was eight per cent in February 2022 (39 000 additional deaths), six per cent in February 2021 (26 000 excess deaths) and almost -3 per cent in February 2020.

The excess mortality rate remained high in the last quarter of 2022, reaching +12 per cent in October, +9 per cent in November and +19 per cent in December, the highest recorded value of 2022.

January 2023 registered a significant drop to +3 per cent from the previous month and then it continued falling to the negative value of February.

In February 2023, two-thirds of the EU countries recorded no excess deaths.

Among the countries that registered positive values, Greece and Cyprus recorded the highest excess mortality rates (both +12 per cent above the national monthly average for 2016-19), followed by Portugal with +6 per cent, the Netherlands and France, both 4 per cent, Malta with 2 per cent and Italy, Ireland, and Austria, all with +1 per cent.

The major peaks in excess deaths in the EU were registered in April 2020 (+25 per cent), November 2020 (+40 per cent), April 2021 (+21 per cent) and November 2021 (+27 per cent), Eurostat said.

In Bulgaria, excess mortality in October 2022 was 1.3 per cent. The indicator then fell below the baseline, to -0.6 per cent in November, -4.3 per cent in December, -13.7 per cent in January and -10.8 per cent in February 2023.

Excess mortality in Bulgaria peaked in November 2020, when it was 94 per cent. The same month, the EU average was 40 per cent.

(Photo of Tsaritsa Joanna Hospital in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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