Italy, once again, ranks first in Western Europe for the number of Covid dead every 100 thousand inhabitants. In the last week there were 1,022 deaths, an average of 146 per day. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, over 50% more than Germany. Thus, among the experts, the question that many have asked themselves since the beginning of the has started to circulate again pandemic: why do so many people lose their lives in our country due to the virus?
Covid deaths, Burioni’s doubts
“Either we are counting them badly (but apparently not), or we are treating them badly (I can suspect it, but I have no concrete elements to say it), or who knows what else. Certainly the authorities must clarify the situation immediately ”. So the virologist Roberto Burioni on Twitter. The ‘chirping’ immediately rekindled the spotlight on the subject.
Matteo Villa: “Real Covid deaths have far exceeded projections”
Burioni is not the only one among the experts to have raised doubts. Also Matteo Villaa researcher at ISPI (Institute for International Political Studies), again via Twitter, highlighted how the forecasts on coronavirus deaths have been neglected: “In the last week, the number of official Covid deaths has far exceeded our projections. We expected a peak of 140 deaths per day. We have reached 175. Really a bad wave ”.
The excess of deaths observed by Villa stems from a model that predicts how many people will die in the next 10 days. “It is based on an algorithm that has two main parameters: the number of cases and the lethality rate, which is not always fixed but evolves over time ”explains the researcher to the newspaper La Repubblica. “And it is the first time that the projections are so wrong. For about a week we have had between 30 and 40 deaths more than expected ”.
Covid, is the way to count the victims wrong?
Another theme that has resurfaced in recent days is that relating to the way of counting the victims. Some, for example Burioni, do not exclude the hypothesis that a different count is applied in Italy than in other countries.
In official statistics a person dies of coronavirus if his death is “associated with Covid”. But what is the threshold for establishing whether the virus is the main cause of death or a contributing cause of it? The last word is from the doctor who fills out the victim’s certificate.
However, believing that at the origin of the numbers linked to coronavirus deaths there is only a matter of counting seems risky. Eurostat found that in Italy in May (the last month for which the calculation is available) there were 5.8% more deaths than in pre-pandemic times, i.e. the average of the months of May between 2015 and 2019.
An excess of deaths can also be seen from June to today according to the data provided by the National Surveillance System of daily mortality. “Certainly the heat is also giving its contribution – explained Villa – given that Covid and high temperatures affect the same category: that of frail elderly“.
However, there is another reason that leads us to think that the issue of the many deaths due to Covid in Italy cannot be liquidated only by saying that there is a different method of calculation compared to other countries.
The reflections of Cesare Cislaghi
Cesare Cislaghi, former president of the Italian Association of Epidemiology and professor at the University of Milan, explained that “the Italian population is 60 million and 1,800 citizens die every day, for whatever cause”. The proportion is 3 people per 100 thousand.
“Today one and a half million people are positive. Within this group, 3 people out of 100 thousand would lose their lives anyway, regardless of Covid, due to general mortality. They are 45 people a day. The difference between yesterday’s 161 and 45 is the over-mortality attributable to the epidemic ”, added Cislaghi, as La Repubblica always reports.
Another fact that should not be underestimated: every day i new admissions to intensive care there are about 30, which means that less than a fifth of people die in these wards, attached to a ventilator: “Covid on the other hand kills less and less through pneumonia that requires assisted breathing”.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the victims in Italy have been more than 172 thousand. Germany, with 83 million inhabitants, is 145,000. “But the lethality rate has been continuously decreasing”, highlighted Cislaghi. Since Omicron arrived, the death curve has been more flattened than the case curve. “Combined effect of the less severe virus and the massive immunization of the population”, assured the expert.
The lethality rate can be obtained by dividing the number of deaths by the number of cases three weeks earlier (on average three weeks pass between contagion and death). “At Christmas, before Omicron and the vaccination extended to everyone, we had 2-3 percent. Today we are at 2-2.5 per thousand. The proportion has dropped 10 times ”, concluded Cislaghi.
Photo Source: ANSA