Abnormally High Mortality Rate In Belarus In Past Six Months. What Can It Be?

Recently, the UN has published data on mortality in Belarus. It turned out that in June 2020, the number of deaths exceeded the last year’s figures for the same month by 3,753 cases. The death rate in the first half of this year has broken a five-year record. Neither the Healthcare Ministry, nor Belstat have yet explained the data on mortality. Moreover, despite Belstat’s promises to publish the data for six months in July, it is still not available to public.

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Photo: Reuters

Belstat has not yet published mortality data for six months

From the UN statistics, it follows that in the second quarter, which was the peak of the spread of COVID-19, almost 35.9 thousand people died in Belarus. This is 5.6 thousand people more than a year earlier. From 2015 to 2017, their number at the end of the second quarter did not reach 30 thousand.

It is important to emphasize that the UN data does not indicate the cause of death, therefore, it is not yet possible to understand why the Belarusians died. According to official data, as of September 13, 74,173 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Belarus since the beginning of the pandemic – that is, since the end of February. For all this time, according to the same data, 750 patients died.

Belstat published data on deaths for this year only for January-March, that is, the first quarter. During this period, a total of 31,039 people died for various reasons, for the same period last year the number was 32,229. However, this statistics allegedly has no connection with the coronavirus, because the first  COVID-19 related death was recorded on 31 March. It was the 75-year-old Honored Artist of Belarus, actor of the Kolas Theater Viktor Dashkevich.

On 7 April, at a meeting with Alexander Lukashenko, it was announced that the overall mortality rate in Belarus in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2019, decreased by 4%, and from pneumonia – by 9%. 254 people died from pneumonia in the first three months of this year.

The latest data for six months, as explained by Belstat in June, was planned to be published in July. TUT.BY failed to find this information in the public domain. Belstat specialists were also not availbale to clarify when these data will be published.

Sweden and the Netherlands also had peak mortality months

Let’s take a closer look at the mortality data that countries submit to the UN. In June, mortality in Belarus increased sharply. During the month, 13,016 people died, and in June 2019 the number of deatsh were 9,263 people. On average, in 2011–2019, 9,576 people died in Belarus in June, and in June 2020 – 3,440 more.

Note that the UN database is updated unevenly: some countries provide information earlier, others later. The data on Belarus are up-to-fate. Most countries are lagging behind Belarus in this sense. For example, countries affected by the coronavirus: the United States, Italy, Spain, France, Iran, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Russia have not yet updated their statistics.

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However, TUT.BY managed to find several examples of a similar abnormal increase in the number of deaths in a particular month. A similar surge occurred in April in the Netherlands and Sweden. Both countries are comparable to Belarus in terms of population (9.5 million in our country, 10.1 million in Sweden, 17.1 million in the Netherlands) and in the number of registered cases of COVID-19 (just over 74 thousand in Belarus; 86.5 thousands – in Sweden, 82 thousand – in the Netherlands).

The surge in deaths in the Netherlands and Sweden could well be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Netherlands had a peak in new cases in April, which is why the surge was so big there. In Sweden, the peak was in June, but data for this month is not yet available.

WHO: COVID-19 linked to rising overall mortality 

What happened in Belarus in terms of mortality in the first six months of 2020? Neither the Healthcare Ministry, nor Belstat has yet responded to the question. The Belarusian bureau of the World Health Organization noted that they “are in contact with specialists from Belarus in order to obtain more detailed information on the emerging data on mortality and to understand the possible causes of the observed excess mortality.”

“Usually, such changes can be associated with outbreaks of infectious diseases or other acute health problems in the population. This year, a similar increase in overall mortality was observed in many countries of the world and was directly or indirectly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, due to national differences in testing strategies and approaches to registering COVID-19 as the cause of death, the official death rates from COVID-19 in different countries can vary significantly.

And in this situation, overall mortality can give a better idea of ​​the scale of the consequences of the epidemic. For a more full understanding of the causes of excess mortality and its likely connection with the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, further analysis of the statistics provided by age, sex, geography, causes of death, as well as the methodology used for registering deaths from COVID-19, is required,” the WHO national office explained.

Source: TUT.BY