This chart compares changes in excess deaths as a proportion of usual deaths during the COVID-19 outbreak for selected European countries. It is an updated version of a chart that appeared in Understanding excess mortality, which explores the fairest way to compare COVID-19 deaths internationally.

On 1 July 2020 we published further analysis exploring COVID-19’s impact in the UK to other European countries.

COVID-19 deaths are defined and recorded differently across countries, meaning that international comparisons of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths can be misleading. 

The number of excess deaths is a better measure than COVID-19 deaths of the pandemic’s overall impact on mortality. It is calculated as the difference between deaths in a given time period and the number usually expected (for example, based on historic trends) and does not depend on how COVID-19 deaths are recorded.

This chart is an updated version of a chart that appears in Understanding excess mortality, which explores why excess deaths as a proportion of usual deaths is a fairer way to compare COVID-19 deaths internationally.  

This updated chart shows that:

  • In England and Wales there were 113% more deaths than usual in the week ending 17 April 2020 – the peak week. Since then the number of excess deaths has steadily decreased towards pre-outbreak levels with the latest data for the week ending 22 May 2020 showing 24% more excess deaths than expected.
  • This peak in England and Wales was only exceeded by Spain which had a peak of 153% (this figure was recently revised upwards by 40 percentage points). Italy is the only other country with a peak of more than 100%. In Spain and Italy the peak week and subsequent decrease in excess deaths were 2 weeks ahead of England and Wales.
  • The peak week figures for France and Sweden were much lower, at 55% and 46%, respectively. The figures are similar despite quite different approaches to lock-down.
  • The peak in Germany was significantly lower than observed for the other European countries at 12% more deaths than usual in the week ending 10 April 2020.

Previous updates

On 19 May 2020 we published this chart with data up to week ending 15 May 2020. The following key points were included and have since been updated:

  • In England and Wales there were 113% more deaths than usual in the week ending 17 April 2020 – the peak week. Since then the number of excess deaths has steadily decreased towards pre-outbreak levels with the latest data for the week ending 8 May 2020 showing 32% more excess deaths than expected.
  • In Spain and Italy, peaks of over 100% increase in deaths were also observed. The peak week and subsequent decrease in excess deaths were 2 weeks ahead of England and Wales.

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