Impact of Covid-19 on death rates in countries analysed by New York Times. Chart by Keith Rankin.
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Analysis by Keith Rankin.

Today’s chart shows (in grey) the estimated impact of Covid-19 on mortality rates in the selected countries. For most of these countries, the ‘excess death’ procedure provides an estimate of underreporting in underreporting countries compared to those with the most comprehensive reporting.

Some of these extra deaths may have occurred as an indirect result of Covid-19 – eg non-treatment for other conditions – and not themselves due to coronavirus infection. There is however evidence that deaths unattributable to Covid19 have reduced; for example, March would in other years have been a peak month, in these countries, for seasonal influenza deaths among the aged and others with comorbidity issues.

This exercise is comparable with my Smithometer exercise, where I was able to show that, for a two-week period in 1918 coinciding with the Black Flu, mortality was occurring at ten times the usual rate.

We see quite clearly that Belgium, Spain and United Kingdom have the greatest Covid19 mortality, closely followed by Italy, Netherlands and France. Netherlands appears to be the worst underreporting offender; it is much closer to its neighbour Belgium than the reported data suggest.

Sweden, which has one of the worst reported Covid19 death rates, at least reports its deaths in a comprehensive manner.

The data from Germany, Denmark and Norway suggest that there has been a decrease in deaths unrelated to Covid19. I means that in the worst affected countries, their lockdowns will have prevented a number of these other deaths (eg influenza deaths, accidents). So the actual number of deaths resulting from the Covid19 pandemic will have been higher in all countries than the grey columns in the chart indicate (as is clearly the case in Germany, Denmark and Norway).

In Norway, Covid19 has actually reduced the total number of deaths in that country in March, despite 161 people dying of Covid19. (Covid19 actually saved about 200 other lives in Norway!)

While the New York Times data does not give an estimate for the United States, it does estimate New York City’s mortality. New York City’s actual death rate from Covid19 is more than three times higher than that of Belgium, and is almost certainly higher than that of Brussels, Belgium’s most affected city. (While New York is unlikely to be as badly afflicted as Milan, it will be closing in on that Italian city.) New York’s officially reported deaths appear to be about 80 percent of all its deaths attributable to Covid19.

Working out an eventual death total for Covid19 may have to wait until the year 2030, because many indirect deaths will occur in later years. This exercise will be made more difficult, because, over the decade, there will also be many other deaths that will not happen, thanks to Covid19’s influence on our lifestyles.

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