Analysis by Keith Rankin.
In a few countries – already noted – there has been a recent rise in deaths that may be due to omicron-covid. In many other countries there has not been a notable rise in excess deaths, despite rises in recorded deaths with Covid19.
Chile’s omicron-wave of covid looks more like a severe extension to its late-2021 delta-wave. The big difference is that it is now older Chileans who are dying, whereas in 2020 and 2021 there were unusually large numbers of younger deaths. Chile made a bigger effort than most to protect its older population, with (for example) a strictish prioritisation of older people for vaccination. Maybe we are now seeing that immunity has waned more in older people, because of these past measures to protect them. Or maybe, omicron-covid, which is generally mild and is well on the way to becoming another ‘common cold’ virus, has a disproportionate impact on those populations whose deaths are commonly cited as ‘due to old age’.
The USA is much like Chile (and unlike most countries) in that unusually large numbers of younger people died from covid. This is less true for the most recent uptick in American deaths. While many of these 2022 deaths were due to delta-covid, the upsurge in covid deaths of older people came with the omicron wave of cases.
Israel has consistently seen more fatalities of older people, unlike these previous two countries. This seems to be especially pronounced in its latest wave. Though, as for the USA, many of these deaths will have been from the second delta-wave that saw case numbers rise markedly in December. This is of some concern, because of the proactive vaccination policies that Israel pursued.
Greece and Bulgaria
Greece, like its neighbour Bulgaria, was unusually late to get a wave of covid fatalities. This may have been in part due to significant influenza being present in both countries in February 2020. Most countries ‘paid the price’, however, in 2021.
Like Chile and the United States, they had unusually high numbers of younger fatalities. And like Chile and USA, the latest wave of fatalities seems to be more focussed on those who are older.
My sense is, in the coming ‘omicron-winter’ in the southern hemisphere, there will be unusually large numbers of older people dying with Covid19. More like a bad flu season than what we have seen in the above countries last year.
We urgently need to investigate death rates of older people in years following years (such as the year ended October 2020) when relatively few older people died from respiratory illnesses. And we need to learn more about the extent to which recent waves of these kinds of viruses may both protect or aggravate the life expectancy of people in the older age groups more vulnerable to viruses of the respiratory tract.
Keith Rankin (keith at rankin dot nz), trained as an economic historian, is a retired lecturer in Economics and Statistics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.