Corona virus – Similar number of deaths as in the first year of the pandemic

The analysis of the deaths in the past year again shows an increase in deaths due to the pandemic. According to Statistics Austria, 90,054 deaths have been reported for January 1 to December 31, 2021, although this number will increase slightly in the coming weeks due to late reports. This number is 8.7 percent above the five-year average before the start of the corona pandemic (2015-2019) and is therefore at a similar level to the first year of the pandemic, 2020. As a result, life expectancy also remains below the level before the corona virus appeared.

The de facto absence of the 2020/21 flu season had a beneficial effect this year. However, this was compensated for by the end of the second wave and the beginning of the alpha wave. In other words: In the first quarter of 2021 Statistics Austria observed a death rate that was not unusual compared to previous years, but Covid-19 replaced influenza to a certain extent.

© M. Hirsch

Autumn wave with fewer deaths in nursing homes

The availability of the vaccination also had a positive effect. This effect could already be seen in the spring, with Covid mortality falling. At that time, only a few had access to vaccination. The effectiveness of the delta wave in autumn was clearer. Although it ran parallel to the previous year, it had different consequences.

For example, the nursing homes in Austria, in which more than 8,000 people died in the fourth quarter of the previous year, recorded a greatly reduced number of deaths. Between October and December, just over 5,000 people died in inpatient care facilities, roughly the same number as in the last quarter of 2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The fact that the waves of infection were significantly longer and, in the case of the delta wave, were also accompanied by far higher numbers of infections had an unfavorable effect last year. In the second half of 2021, about as many corona cases were registered as in all previous waves. But while around 7,000 people died from the corona virus in the second wave of 2020/21, less than half of them died in the delta wave.

In the coming weeks, however, the number of reported deaths in 2021 will increase somewhat, as the registry offices continue to report deaths from the previous year, according to Statistics Austria. In addition, the present figure does not yet include any deaths among the Austrian population that occurred abroad.

Third leading cause of death

If one takes into account the increased population and changes in the age structure, then in 2021, even without the corona pandemic, slightly more deaths would have been expected than in the years 2015 to 2019. As part of the main variant of the population forecast prepared by Statistics Austria in autumn 2019 – i.e. before the start of the pandemic – a total of 85,217 deaths were forecast for 2021. Just over 90,000 have now died.

With the diagnosis of Covid-19, 6,877 deaths were registered in the previous year, similar to 2020. The disease caused by the coronavirus was responsible for around seven percent of deaths in 2020, which should have been similar in the previous year. However, this also means that last year Covid-19 will again be third in the cause of death statistics, behind cardiovascular diseases and cancer, despite vaccination being widely available from the summer.

For the European comparison, the data available so far only allows a first insight. This shows, unsurprisingly, that Bulgaria and Romania, the two countries with the lowest vaccination rate in the EU, could have three to four times as much excess mortality as Austria. According to provisional data, Eurostat also shows very high values ​​for Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and Poland. In this calculation by the EU statistical authority, which does not include December and November is partially missing, Austria is roughly on par with Slovenia, the Netherlands and Ireland. By November, Sweden was even reported to have the lowest number of deaths in the EU.

The (preliminary) data for the whole year are already available from the Swedish Statistics Institute. After 95,461 deaths in 2020, only 88,648 deaths were registered in Sweden in the previous year, more than in 2019, but fewer than in the years 2015 to 2018. (sir/what)

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