First 3 years of COVID-19 had 3M excess deaths in the West: study

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The first three years of the COVID-19 pandemic had more than three million excess deaths in Western countries, a new study says, raising “serious concerns.”

The research published in the BMJ Public Health journal Monday showed that between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2022, a total of 3,089,465 excess deaths were reported in 47 countries in the West, including Canada.

Excess mortality reflects data about the number of deaths that exceed what is expected or considered normal during a given period.

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Excess deaths up during pandemic in Canada

The first full year of the pandemic had more than 1.03 million excess deaths in 2020, the BMJ study said.

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In 2021, when the first COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out, there were roughly 1.25 million excess deaths.

Then, in 2022, when countries lifted most COVID-19 related measures, more than 808,000 excess deaths were reported, according to preliminary estimates.

“Excess mortality has remained high in the Western world for three consecutive years, despite the implementation of containment measures and COVID-19 vaccines,” the study authors in Netherlands concluded.

“This is unprecedented and raises serious concerns,” they said, adding that governments and policymakers “need to thoroughly investigate underlying causes of persistent excess mortality and evaluate their health crises policies.”

Excess deaths in Canada

Researchers looked at all-cause mortality reports for Western countries using the ‘Our World in Data’ statistics.

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In Canada, thousands of excess deaths have been reported since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In 2020, five per cent or 13,798 more deaths than expected were reported had there been no pandemic, according to provisional data from Statistics Canada.

Meanwhile, provisional StatCan data from March 2020 through December 2021 showed an estimated 30,146 excess deaths – or nearly six per cent more deaths than expected.

“In addition to deaths directly caused by COVID-19, the pandemic could also have indirect consequences that increase or decrease the occurrences of death,” StatCan said in its report from May 2022.

The agency says it is important to measure excess mortality to better understand the direct and indirect consequences of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

What's behind the excess deaths?

While the BMJ study did not specifically examine the causes of the persistently high excess deaths in the West during the pandemic, the authors said non-pharmaceutical interventions to curb COVID-19 spread had “adverse indirect effects,” such as limited access to healthcare, disrupted health programmes and mental health challenges “that increased morbidity and mortality from other causes.”

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“Vulnerable populations in need of acute or complex medical treatment, such as patients with cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular conditions, diabetes and cancer, were hurt by these interventions due to the limited access to and delivery of medical services,” the authors wrote in the study.

They also blamed staff shortages, postponed surgeries, limited availability of medicines, and delayed diagnostics for worsening the conditions of patients.

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After more than three years, the World Health Organization declared in May 2023 that the COVID-19 was no longer a global health emergency.

However, COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to be reported in Canada and other countries.

As of May 28, a total of more than 4.96 million COVID-19 cases and 59,382 deaths have been reported in Canada, according to government data. 


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