January 25, 2022

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Large excess deaths in December, but not last week |  the interior

Large excess deaths in December, but not last week | the interior

In total, 4,300 more people died in December than would be expected in a normal December. Excess deaths were high throughout the month, but in the last week of 2021 the number of deaths decreased, according to reports from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).




Nearly 30 per cent of the Dutch died in December than would be expected under normal circumstances. The additional number of deaths was higher in Zeeland (55 percent more), Limburg (43 percent) and Flevoland (42 percent more). In November, the excess death rate was still 3,500 people.

The excess death rate calculated between weeks 48 and 52 of 2021 is much higher than the number of corona deaths recorded by the RIVM, which was 1,355 in the same period.

“RIVM relies on death reports by the GGD,” says CBS researcher Robin van Gallen. “This pertains to people who have had a positive PCR test for GGD and whose death has also been reported to GGD by a physician. But reporting is not mandatory.”

According to Van Gaalen, this notification occurs regularly. It is also possible that the patient tested positive for corona only through self-testing, or that no test was performed at all, the researcher says. Then, when determining the cause of death, the examining physician can conclude that corona played a role in the death and note this in the report.

Percentage of excess deaths for each governorate between weeks 48 and 52. © Statistics Netherlands

Many self-exams

From this cause of death data — compiled and recorded in the Netherlands for each death — CBS concluded that actual coronavirus deaths in most months are about 80 percent higher than RIVM’s numbers. Van Galen suspects it may be more than double that in December. Reason: Too many self-tests are done. The percentage of people who have tested positive for GGD has recently become too high to rule out that the community has much more corona than you would expect based on the daily number of positive tests.”

Vaccination skeptics regularly suggest that among the dead are (many) people who succumbed to their coronavirus vaccine. “There’s really no indication of that,” says Van Galen. “In many countries with similar vaccination coverage, there is no excess mortality or much lower. Death due to vaccination occurs in rare cases, but it is completely unlikely that it is an explanation for these excess deaths.”


Late start boost

Van Galen, who is also an activist as a professor by special appointment at the University of Amsterdam, sees some other possible reasons for the significantly higher death rate in December. The first: the late start of the Dutch reinforcement campaign. Belgium, for example, started strengthening months ago. There is hardly any extra excess in deaths. I think vaccination significantly reduces the risk of death from corona. And you see that in countries where they started with the booster injection before, the number of deaths has gone down rapidly. So yes, that could partly explain the significant increase in the death rate in December.”

Another explanation might be that a number of Dutch people died earlier due to loss or delay in care. “This could have certainly contributed. Operations that weren’t done, diagnoses that weren’t done or that were made too late. But then don’t expect that to lead to a sudden climax.”


Another possible cause, says Van Galen: “The elderly, whom we were able to keep off the wind for so long because of corona and immunization rules, died simply because they ran out. There was also a significant increase in deaths among people over 90 in December. They may have died from catching a cold, to name a few. This may be the last push for some people.”

Analyzes by Statistics Netherlands for 2020 and the first half of 2021 show that Corona was entirely responsible for the increase in deaths in that period. There was no noticeable increase in other causes of death at that time. “We will continue to investigate the figures for the last months of 2021 in the coming period,” says Van Galen.

Incidentally, according to CBS, fewer people died in week 52, the last week of the recording period, than in the previous weeks. That week, there was also “no increase in the death rate” according to CSO guidelines. The closure was in effect in the last week of 2021. The reinforcement campaign also gained momentum by then.

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