A study published on Wednesday estimated that the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic is responsible for 20% more deaths, directly and indirectly than official figures in about twenty Western countries.
19 European countries, Australia and New Zealand recorded “about 206,000 more deaths than would be expected in the event that the Covid-19 epidemic did not emerge” between mid-February and the end of May, according to a mathematical modeling study published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.
But only 167,000 deaths have been officially attributed to Covid-19. The difference, which is about 40,000 deaths, can be attributed to the disease in two ways. Directly, at the start of an epidemic when overcrowded hospitals were unable to systematically test all of their patients. And indirectly, with deaths from other causes, the overload on hospitals did not prevent it.
The study showed that England and Wales as well as Spain are the most affected, with an increase of 37% to 38% in deaths over the expected levels in the absence of the epidemic, compared to an increase of 18% in the rate in all countries covered.
Italy, Scotland, and Belgium follow, while France ranks eighth, with an increase in the number of deaths at a rate of 13%.
While a group of ten countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, and Norway, managed to “avoid a significant increase in deaths.”
The epidemic caused by the SARS-Cove-2 virus has directly claimed the lives of more than a million people worldwide, according to official statistics, but it also led to deaths indirectly, due to its social and economic impacts and disruption of health systems (lack of income, delay in diagnosis, delay in operations, reduced Sports activity and the increase in suicides and violence within the family … etc).
‘Equivalent to lung cancer‘
On the contrary, limiting traffic and improving air quality during the lockdown could have avoided deaths that would have occurred had it not been for the pandemic.
Researchers at Imperial College London (the Royal College of Science, Technology, and Medicine) explained that knowledge of these indirect effects “is essential to understanding the true impact of the pandemic on public health.”
“This number (206 thousand) is equal to the total number of deaths due to lung cancer, which is twice the number of deaths related to diabetes or breast cancer in these countries for a full year,” said the National Institute for Population Studies, one of the participants in the study, in a statement.
The researchers relied on death data since 2010 in the countries covered by the study to determine the number of deaths usually expected in the period from mid-February to May 2020, in the event that an epidemic did not appear.
Then they compared these numbers to the number of deaths already recorded during this period, for various reasons, to extract the excess deaths attributed to Covid-19.
According to a study published on Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for every American who died from Covid-19, a third died, directly or indirectly, as a result of the epidemic.
The study authors noted that the differences from one country to another “reflect the diversity of population characteristics, policies, response to the epidemic and the readiness of public health systems.”
And they considered that to reduce the losses caused by the epidemic, building care pathways to properly guide patients and care for those with chronic diseases is no less important than fighting the spread of the virus.
“Countries that have implemented effective, comprehensive testing and contact tracing campaigns at the local level, or those that have imposed early and effective lockdown measures, saw a decrease in the number of deaths during the wave,” said Jonathan Pearson Stotard, co-author of the study, of the Imperial College School of Public Health. First “.
“With the emergence of the second wave, the most important factor in minimizing the impact of the epidemic is testing and tracing programs and providing support for people who need to isolate themselves,” he added.