Are vastly more people dying in Germany because of the pandemic?

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Fri 18th Dec, 2020

Tuberculosis was considered the world's most deadliest infectious disease in 2019. According to the World Health Organization, ten million people worldwide were infected with tuberculosis, and about 1.4 million of them died. The WHO currently (as of December 18th) reports more than 72 million Covid-19 cases and more than 1.6 million Covid-19-related deaths, making Corona the world's deadliest infectious disease in 2020.

But how deadly is Corona in Germany and is this pandemic exaggerated?

It is worth looking at previous years.In 2019, a total of 939,520 people died in Germany, from all causes. The most common cause of death in 2019 - as in previous years - was cardiovascular disease . More than a third of all deaths (35.3 percent) were attributable to this. The second leading cause of death was cancer;additionally, 4.4 percent of all deaths were due to an unnatural cause such as injury or poisoning.

What about infectious diseases like the flu? There are normally large fluctuations in the number of flu deaths each year. In 2017 and 2018, flu waves led to an increase in deaths. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 107,100 people died in Germany in total. with March 2018 seeing a particularly severe flu epidemic . For comparison, in March 2019 there were 86,500, deaths for all causes, and in March 2020 87,100. The RKI estimates the number of deaths from seasonal flu infections at up to 25,000 (2017/2018).

Initially, in the first wave, Germany came through the coronavirus pandemic comparatively well compared to other European countries. And yet, the Federal Statistical Office claims the number of overall deaths increased significantly in the last week of March 2020 and throughout April. At the same time, according to the RKI, an increase in deaths related to the coronavirus was observed . In April alone, the number of deaths was 83,800, nearly ten percent higher than the average of previous years - and this despite the Corona measures already introduced at that time to contain the incidence of infection . Such an increase in deaths in this month of the year is completely atypical; the flu epidemic was already over by that time. But why did the number of deaths not increase in March during the first peak of the virus?

It should be taken into account that according to studies, patients with severe symptoms die on average three weeks after the onset of symptoms. As reported by the science magazine Quarks, more people died in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg between March and May than in the period before. In this period, particularly many people tested positive for Corona . "A look at the number of deaths suggests that their temporary increase is related to the pandemic, a Corona effect is therefore obvious," writes the Federal Statistical Office in a report.

Since the beginning of May, the number of total deaths in Germany, for all causes, was again about average. In August, there was again an above-average number of deaths. Experts attribute this to the hot spell . "We know that very old people suffer particularly from high temperatures and accordingly have a higher probability of dying, and when we see particularly high death rates in the hottest weeks of the year, we suspect a connection". With the second corona wave, however, there was also an increase in deaths again. According to preliminary results, at least 78,346 people died in Germany in October 2020 - four percent more than the average for 2016 to 2019. In the first half of October, the number of deaths was still in line with the average for previous years. "However, the number of deaths of people in whom Covid-19 had previously been confirmed in the laboratory increased from week to week," the Federal Statistical Office reported. In the last week of October alone, at least 19,030 people died - five percent more than in previous years.

The above-average number of deaths in Germany in October 2020 is almost exclusively due to cases in people aged 80 and older. According to RKI figures, deaths from Covid-19 are more common in people over 80. In the week of Nov. 9-15, eight percent more people died than the average in previous years, compared with five percent the week before. There is a glimmer of hope: in 2020, the first coronavirus vaccines are expected to be available in Germany.

As with other populations, the vast majority of deaths occur in the elderly or those with an existing condition, such as those with obesity. As the values show, the virus is increasing the year-on-year death rate, but not to the level which organisations such as the WHO initially led us to believe would occur.

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