This chart compares changes in excess deaths as a proportion of usual deaths during the COVID-19 outbreak for selected European countries. It is an updated version of a chart that appeared in Understanding excess mortality, which explores the fairest way to compare COVID-19 deaths internationally.

COVID-19 deaths are defined and recorded differently across countries, meaning that international comparisons of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths can be misleading. 

The number of excess deaths is a better measure than COVID-19 deaths of the pandemic’s overall impact on mortality. It is calculated as the difference between deaths in a given time period and the number usually expected (for example, based on historic trends) and does not depend on how COVID-19 deaths are recorded.

This chart is an updated version of a chart that appears in Understanding excess mortality, which explores why excess deaths as a proportion of usual deaths is a fairer way to compare COVID-19 deaths internationally.  

This updated chart shows that:

  • In England and Wales there were 113% more deaths than usual in the week ending 17 April 2020 – the peak week. Since then the number of excess deaths has steadily decreased towards pre-outbreak levels with the latest data for the week ending 8 May 2020 showing 32% more excess deaths than expected.
  • In Spain and Italy, peaks of over 100% increase in deaths were also observed. The peak week and subsequent decrease in excess deaths were 2 weeks ahead of England and Wales.
  • The peak week figures for France and Sweden were much lower, at 55% and 46%, respectively. The figures are similar despite quite different approaches to lock-down.
  • The peak in Germany was significantly lower than observed for the other European countries at 12% more deaths than usual in the week ending 10 April 2020.

Further reading

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Understanding excess mortality

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