The number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus Covid-19 could be 50-100% higher that initially reported, according to research by the country’s Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS).
The bureau used a statistical method known as a dynamic regression model to compare the number of Covid-19 deaths in the first 11 weeks of the epidemic in the Netherlands with the excess mortality in the same period.
That method allows an estimate of excess mortality between 8,593 and 11,691 in the period, to 95% certainty.
In layman’s terms, the actual excess mortality during the early coronavirus period was between 50 and 100% higher than officially registered Covid deaths.
Between the first patient who tested positive for Covid-19 in the Netherlands on February 27 and the first death on March 6, total mortality in the Netherlands increased weekly.
Up to and including week 10 (March 2 to 8), an average of 3,136 people died each week. Mortality then rose to a maximum of 5,080 in week 14 (March 30 to April 5).
Weekly mortality at week 20 (May 11-17) was at a comparable level to the same period in previous years – in other words excess mortality was about zero.
However, the report points out, the figures given daily on Covid-19 deaths during the period only reported those cases confirmed by a test. Counting only those deaths comes to a total to week 21 of 5,900. A figure which does not explain the excess mortality estimated by the dynamic regression model.
If the calculations are at all accurate, the Netherlands had many more Covid-19 deaths than reported.
The results of the study have a relevance to Belgium, where not only test-confirmed Covid-19 fatalities were reported daily, but also deaths where no test had been carried out but the patient’s symptoms leading up to their death suggested a diagnosis of Covid-19.
That method has the reverse drawback of false positives, since the symptoms of Covid-19, including fever and respiratory problems, are common to many conditions. But the Belgian health authorities argued for a more inclusive reporting. The result was Belgium’s unenviable place at the top of the world list of fatalities per head of population.
“Particularly in the first phase of the corona outbreak, a relatively high number of people probably died from corona without the deaths ending up as such in the statistics,” commented the Dutch public broadcaster NOS. “This has to do with the fact that there were not so many tests carried out in the beginning.”