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Reality Check: Number of Coronavirus deaths

Reality Check: Number of Coronavirus deaths

COVID-19

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By: Hassan Isdodi
How many people have died in different countries because of Coronavirus, either directly or indirectly? The answer is hard to be precise. But one of the nest measures to use in what’s known as excess deaths. That means the number of deaths above what we might expect to see in normal circumstances. To work it out, you take the number of people who have died from any cause in a given period.

Then you can compare that with the average number of deaths that occurred in the same period over the past five years. As an example, we are going to look at three countries with high numbers of Coronavirus deaths in Europe.

To make the comparison more accurate, we are taking eight weeks, starting from the week in which the fifth Coronavirus death was recorded in each country.

That means adding up the number of deaths in the same eight-week periods from 2015 to 2019. The difference between that average and the number we have for 2020 is the excess deaths for an eight-week period during the pandemic. However, it’s still not a perfect measure.

In the UK that number is about 50,928, in Italy, it’s 40,820 and in France, it’s 27,522. And if you turn those numbers into a percentage, you know that in that period the UK ha 54% more deaths than normal. The advantage of these numbers is that they take a lot of other variables that make comparisons between different countries difficult. 

You don’t have to think about whether one country has done more Coronavirus tests than another or whether one has a stricter definition than another how to count Coronavirus deaths. You just know roughly how many more people have died of any cause would normally expect.

There are still other factors to take into account. If you are comparing different countries, as well as asking if they reached the peak of the outbreak at different times, you need to know if one has an older population than another. So Statisticians are never entirely satisfied, but measuring excess deaths gives you a pretty good idea of what’s been going on.

 

Source: BBC

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