Funeral directors have been busier than usual for months, with no clear explanation for this. “We’re in fifth place, this is no longer a sprint, it’s a marathon,” says Martijn van de Koolwijk from DELA, the largest funeral provider in the Netherlands.
DELA usually receives about 100 to 120 death reports each day. Recently, we have often been at the top of this range or higher. “It’s been going on for months, and it’s going to go on for a long time,” says van de Koolwejk.
He has no explanation for the high death toll. Additionally, funeral directors do not have insight into the causes of death for privacy reasons. According to a DELA spokesperson, funeral directors can still handle crowds: “It’s not that we don’t meet legal deadlines by definition.” This is the period in which the funeral must take place after death.
DELA provides more than 30,000 funerals annually at forty locations across the country.
Funeral director Monota also says he’s been “very busy.” A spokeswoman for the company confirms that the company can handle this very well. “We see that there is a lot of pressure at the moment. What we also saw is that usually in the summer the number of deaths decreased more than usual and this summer it stayed more or less the same. So we have been busier in the summer.”
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), more people are dying than expected months ago. In October, for example, the alleged excess mortality rate was 16 percent. In total, nearly 1,800 more people died than expected, including 1,000 vulnerable people, such as residents of nursing homes or institutions for people with disabilities. The Census Bureau cannot determine the cause of the additional deaths.
These may be unrecorded corona deaths, an increased risk of dying for a longer period after contracting the virus, but also deaths due to delayed care or due to the extreme summer heat.
It is already the second time in a short time that the high death rate has raised questions. The first time was during the Corona pandemic of 2020 and 2021. The death rates at that time were higher than the official Corona death toll from the National Institute of Health and Viruses. CBS and RIVM did research, however 3,500 of the more than 11,300 additional deaths in the latter half of 2021 cannot be explained. Parliament was not satisfied with this. On the initiative of Member of Parliament Peter Umtzigt, a sounding council group was appointed to conduct independent research on excess mortality.
However, the problem is that the control panel group cannot access all the data due to privacy regulations, AD revealed in September. For example, corona test results from GGD and vaccination data from RIVM are not available for analysis and research by third parties. As a result, it is not possible to verify whether vaccines play a role, as some believe. “I don’t see much of a reason for that, but you should be able to dig into it,” said program leader and professor of transparency in healthcare Robert Verheig. “Now we can’t do that because a lot of data is not allowed to be shared.”
In any case, the Dutch Statistics Authority indicates that Corona was the cause of death in 3.5 percent of deaths until the second quarter of this year. However, the excess death rate in those months was higher than could be explained by the virus alone. CBS researcher Robin Van Galen said last month that another possible cause of excess deaths in the second quarter could be the weakness of people who had previously contracted corona and recovered, and thus died later of something else.
Another explanation could be that people who died “naturally” in the winter, for example from infection, then lived because they had additionally protected themselves because of the epidemic. They may have died later. According to Van Galen, this hypothesis is difficult to prove, but it is “a pattern we recognize from large epidemics”.
Overall, it’s still just a guess as to the exact causes, says healthcare transparency professor Robert Verheig. “Is it mainly due to delayed care, and in which age groups does mortality play the most? Are they mainly people with underlying medical problems?” says Verhey. “Only when we have more information can we step back and take a closer look at what the trends are.”
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