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2020 already Belgium’s deadliest year since WW2

Credit: Belga

This year will be the deadliest year in Belgium since the Second World War, according to figures by Demography professor Patrick Deboosere (VUB).

In 2020 so far, the excess mortality rate has risen to 14,400 additional deaths, making it clear that this year will be the deadliest post-war year, even if the excess mortality falls in December. On 14 December, Belgium recorded a total of 17,951 deaths due to the coronavirus since the start of the epidemic.

The previous record was set in 1968, when Belgium was hit by the Hong Kong flu. Partly due to the high death toll of that flu virus, a total of 121,744 Belgians died that year.

2020 is set to break that record, as a total of 113,921 deaths have already been recorded so far this year, with Statbel’s figures only going up until 29 November.

Excess mortality is a calculation that often comes up in the aftermath of a heatwave or a flu epidemic, and describes the number of deaths resulting from that event, minus the number of deaths that would be expected at that time of year in normal circumstances.

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The deadliest months in 2020 were April and November, during the first and second Covid-19 wave. Those months were also the deadliest April and November since the Second World War.

In April 2020, during the peak of Belgium’s first coronavirus wave, a total of 15,417 people died, according to figures by Statbel, Belgium’s official statistics office.

Statbel’s figures show that a total of 13,480 people in Belgium died in November. However, the death toll will still rise as the data for the last day of the month have yet not been added.

Additionally, up to 5% of deaths are reported late, making it very likely that November 2020’s total death toll will easily pass 14,000, according to Deboosere.

The figures teach us that the second wave is perhaps just as deadly as the first, according to Deboosere.

“If the figures stabilise as they are now and an average of 100 people per day continue to die in the coming weeks, the second wave could be more deadly than the first,” he told De Standaard.

The deadliest month since the Second World War remains February 1960, when over 15,000 Belgium died from the flu virus.

“At the time, however, people did not realise how deadly the flu virus was, because there were no detailed figures on it,” Deboosere said. “In fact, the newspapers reported that resistance was high after the Second World War and that mortality rates were low.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times