The Economist magazine has updated their estimates of the number of excess deaths around the world since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
It makes powerful and depressing reading.
Their data on European countries suggest that. quote, "compared with a historical baseline of 2009-19, Europe has suffered some deadly flu seasons since 2016—but that the death toll this year from covid-19 is far greater. Overall, the number of excess deaths across the continent since March is about 170,000. Though most of those victims have been older than 65, the number of deaths among Europeans aged 45-64 was 40% higher than usual in early April."
Key lessons from the data include
- Some countries have done better than others but almost everywhere has been badly hit.
- Countries which used strategies designed to fight an infection which behaves like SARS have generally done better in this particular pandemic than those which used a strategy designed to fight a disease which acts like flu. Of course, we don't want to be always fighting the previous war: there is no guarantee that the next pandemic will act like either.
- This is not just a disease which only kills the old and people who were going to die soon anyway. Look at the last sentence of the quote above about what the pandemic did during the first wave to the total number of deaths among Europeans aged from 45 to 64.
Here is the Economist's table for the fifteen countries with the highest rate of excess deaths among those nations which publish enough reliable data for this calculation to be done at all. There are huge swathes of the world, and countries such as Iran or China, where lack of trustworthy data makes it impossible even to attempt to calculate equivalent excess death statistics.
"Sweden was one of the few countries that did not enforce a lockdown at all. It has endured a lower death rate than Britain or Spain, but a higher one than neighbouring Norway or Denmark, which enacted more stringent policies."
I don't think that result fits too well with either the "Sweden didn't have a lockdown and they're doing marvellously so we shouldn't either" narrative or the "Sweden didn't have a lockdown and that decision was catastrophic" narrative. I suggest what it demonstrates is the need for caution when comparing statistics from very different countries.
You can read the full article on the latest Economist tracker here.