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Belgium’s period of excess mortality has likely passed

Credit: Belga

The period of very high excess mortality in Belgium seems to be over, a report by national research and health institute Sciensano said.

“As of 11 May, no more excess mortality has been observed, but this will still have to be confirmed next week,” noted Friday’s epidemiological report.

Between 16 March and 10 May, 8,127 more deaths than expected occurred (47% excess mortality) compared to figures from the past five years

The total number of deaths, not only the coronavirus-related ones, increased considerably each week between 16 March and 12 April, the report stated. The peak in excess mortality occurred on 10 April with 668 deaths, roughly around the same time as the peak for coronavirus-related deaths occurred, with 343 deaths on 12 April.

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From 13 April, the number of deaths decreased, and in the week of 11 May, the preliminary figures indicate a decrease in mortality rates (-2%).

Such a decrease in mortality after excess mortality is expected, and is called the “harvesting effect” in epidemiology.

“The harvest effect assumes that Covid-19 has caused many deaths, and that the disease has mainly caused deaths among the most vulnerable people who would probably have died in the following weeks or months due to another cause,” Sciensano stated, adding that this also happens after a heavy flu season or heatwave.

Belgium is among the countries hardest hit by the virus, with about 800 more deaths per million inhabitants than usual. Only Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy have recorded higher excess mortality rates, according to a graph by the Financial Times.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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