Bergamo has Italy’s highest rates of excess deaths

2020-06-24 Bergamo Överdödlighet

As Europe begins to get through the first coronavirus wave, we can start to get a sense of which parts of the continent have been hit hardest – and which have been unaffected. 42 out of 110 regions in Italy have had significant excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, which is more than other countries in Europe. Bergamo is one of the worst-hit regions in Italy.

We have seen tonnes of national corona comparisons in the last couple of months. But comparing nations easily becomes misleading. The spread of the pandemic is regional rather than national.

To better understand the spread of the virus we have gathered data on excess deaths from 500 subnational regions, across 20 European countries. The data has been collected from national statistical agencies as well as aggregated through Eurostat.

136 of these regions (27 percent) report a significant number of excess deaths, at least 25 percent more than usual. Another 158 report somewhat more deaths than normal.

It is noteworthy that nearly half of all regions have recorded more or less normal number of deaths, despite the pandemic.

Differences across the country

Excess deaths are the number of deaths this year compared to the historical average for the same period.

Measuring excess deaths is the best way of capturing the true toll of the coronavirus pandemic. Officially reported coronavirus deaths are difficult to compare, as countries count these in different ways.

In Italy we have data for 110 regions:

  • 42 of these have reported significant excess deaths (at least 25 percent more than expected).
  • 34 have reported some excess deaths.
  • 34 have had no excess deaths.

Bergamo is one of the regions with a significant excess death rate. In total, 347 percent more people than usual have died in Bergamo since the start of the pandemic, corresponding to 6,120 people. This is based on deaths occurring between week 9 and week 17.

These are the regions with signficant excess deaths in Italy:

The following regions have reported some excess deaths, but under 25 percent:

In these regions, deaths have been more or less at the same level as usual.

Excess deaths have been higher in Bergamo than in all other regions. Compared to other areas of Europe, Bergamo ranks 1st out of the 500 regions we have data for.

Which regions are worst hit?

Bergamo is one of the first places coronavirus took hold in Europe, and the region has had deaths many times higher than usual. Data is only available for Italy until the end of April, when the country was still close to the height of its pandemic, so these figures are likely to fall when more complete numbers are released.

But it's clear corona’s spread across Italy is geographically focused to the north of the country, suggesting it has been contained.

A country that stands out with a rather uniform spread of the disease is the United Kingdom. Every region but one report significant excess deaths.

Some countries, in Central and Eastern Europe, have barely any excess deaths in any region, or even none at all. Slovakia, for example has reported no excess deaths, nor has Lithuania. Bulgaria has a small number of excess deaths in just one region, Czechia in a handful.

Regions with most excess deaths
RegionCountryExcess deathsExcess (%)Latest date
BergamoItaly6,1203472020-04-26
CremonaItaly2,0372772020-04-26
LodiItaly9422332020-04-26
BresciaItaly4,3912112020-04-26
PiacenzaItaly1,1971852020-04-26
ParmaItaly1,3481512020-04-26
LeccoItaly8381482020-04-26
Comunidad de MadridSpain14,0731282020-06-14
PaviaItaly1,5111282020-04-26
MantuaItaly8301052020-04-26

It’s important to note, that although excess deaths is the best metric we have available, statistical agencies in different countries have different lags in reporting, and these figures are still preliminary.

Excess deaths country by country
CountryDeaths since start of pandemicExpected deathsExcess deathsExcess (%)Latest dateFirst week with excess
Belgium29,68321,2168,46740May 1711
Bulgaria23,46424,775-1,311-5May 3111
Czechia13,47513,1403353April 1911
Denmark14,72414,5981261June 710
Finland11,92311,4115124May 2411
France163,009135,48527,52420May 3111
Germany168,535160,7577,7785May 1712
Iceland531569-38-7May 3110
Italy149,504106,88142,62340April 269
Lithuania11,47011,766-296-3June 79
Luxembourg67156210919April 2611
Netherlands41,35031,7679,58330May 2411
Norway9,72810,932-1,204-11May 3110
Portugal25,61822,7082,91013May 2411
Slovakia9,3339,646-313-3April 269
Spain148,940105,75543,18541June 1411
Sweden23,37318,6094,76426May 3112
Switzerland16,29214,9341,3589May 3111
United Kingdom213,482148,94764,53543June 711
Note that the totals for each country have been calculated solely from the regional figures. Any deaths unassigned to a region will not be included.

Methodology

  • Our analysis is based on data showing daily or weekly all-cause deaths in each region, which has been collated from Eurostat and national statistical agencies. (UK: ONS, NRS and NISRA, Germany: Destatis, Spain: ISCIII, Netherlands: CBS)
  • Excess deaths have been calculated by looking at all deaths reported in a region since the start of the pandemic, and comparing it with the average number of deaths during that time period.
  • For most countries, this average period is 2015-2019. Others have fewer years of data available, but at least two full years have been used. Some, like Spain, have modelled the expected number of deaths for 2020 instead of providing historical figures.
  • A region is defined as having had excess deaths if reported deaths were at least 5 percent higher and 20 more than expected. If deaths were at least 25 percent higher than expected, we have defined it as a region with “significant excess”.
  • We've made our data public and freely available here.


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