European countries are currently experiencing an unusually high death rate, and coronavirus deaths are not the direct reason for this increase. Known as “excess mortality,” people are dying at an unusually high rate in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain.
Since April, the death rate has risen sharply in Europe by an average of 11 percent. What is puzzling experts is that these deaths are not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Netherlands, according to de Volkskrant, one of the top newspaper in the country, hundreds of people more are dying every week than usual. This means that since the spring, approximately 5,000 more deaths are being recorded compared to the period before coronavirus. Scientists are puzzled by the reason, but Dutch health agencies refuse to release data behind the cause of deaths due to what the agencies say is related to privacy concerns.
Some have criticized this approach, with popular Dutch commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek saying that matters of health privacy were universally suspended when the Dutch government decided to check everyone’s vaccination status before they began entering restaurants and shopping establishments.
However, excess deaths are even worse elsewhere, with Germany’s top-selling Die Welt newspaper reporting that the situation is especially drastic in Spain. In July 2022, Spain registered almost 10,000 more deaths than in the same month of 2019, while in Germany, the climbing death rate was not as dramatic but still a matter of concern.
To some extent, the rising death toll in Spain can be accounted for with coronavirus infections, but only 1,872 deaths were attributed to Covid-19, and another fifth were due to the extreme temperatures this summer, according to the statistics analyzed by the Carlos III Health Institute, which specializes in monitoring heat damage.
However, many of the deaths cannot be accounted for, a fact acknowledged by the Spanish government, which has ordered a detailed investigation with results expected in six months. Some experts say it is already clear the research should not focus on Covid-19 or the heat.
“Neither Covid nor heat waves explain what’s happening here,” said Salvador Peiró, head of research at the Fundación de Investigación Sanitaria y Biomédica de la Comunidad Valenciana.
Peiró says the rising death toll is “incomprehensible,” above all because he sees many old and chronically ill people among the deceased. Despite this group being highly vaccinated on average, they were still the most at-risk individuals to die from Covid-19.
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“We believed the coronavirus had already caught the weakest,” said Peiró, but now these elderly individuals are dying at very high rates.
In Great Britain, up to 1,000 more people are dying every week than the average in previous years, but health experts here, which are known for their expertise analyzing health data, are reportedly farther along in determining the reasons behind the substantial increase in deaths.
The British authority for national statistics (ONS) published a report entitled “Direct and indirect health effects of Covid-19 in England” in early August, which made international headlines. The authors examined how the healthcare system responded to the pandemic and determined there was a connection between the lockdowns and fear of Covid-19, resulting in drastic reduction in the diagnosis of other diseases. In other words, people were either too afraid to get checked out at a hospital or their doctor, or due to the healthcare crisis, were not diagnosed due to Covid-19 patients receiving priority.
The report, which examined the rate of diagnoses during the pandemic, determined that up to 141,000 cases of heart disease, 26,000 strokes, and 60,000 cases of diabetes went undetected. At the same time, the authors note there was a dramatic increase in mental illness and alcoholism.
If the report’s findings are echoed elsewhere, it will show compelling evidence that lockdowns alone had a deleterious effect on public health, and may be responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across Europe.
As for Germany, 85,285 people died in July alone, which represents a 12 percent increase compared to the average number in July for the years 2018 to 2021, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). In one week of July, deaths were over 24 percent higher.
However, scientists and statisticians in Germany also cannot ascribe a reason behind the rapid increase in deaths, as data behind the deaths is not available to the public.