Over 8 thousand Covid-19 related deaths in March and April; up to 61% higher than thought

The number of coronavirus related deaths in the Netherlands in March and April was much higher than officially reported by the health authorities, Statistics Netherlands said on Friday based on death reports and caused of death statements received from municipalities. The stats office recorded 8,287 coronavirus deaths in March and April, 6,331 in which the diagnosis was confirmed by a lab and 1,956 where a doctor diagnosed it based on symptoms.

The most recent data available from public health agency RIVM showed a total of 5,159 Covid-19 deaths over that time period: 1,448 in March and 3,711 in April. It means the number of Covid-19 deaths was likely to be at least 22 percent higher than the RIVM reported, or as much as 61 percent higher than the agency's total

"There are several possible reasons for the differences between Statistics Netherlands and RIVM," the stats office said. First, the RIVM did not register deaths that physicians diagnosed as Covid-19 based on the clinical picture, but that were not officially tested by a lab. And deaths that were confirmed by a lab may not have been reported to the GGD, and are therefore missing from the RIVM figures, the stats office said. 

For weeks 10 to 17 of this year, March 2 to April 26, health service GGD and RIVM reported 4,890 Covid-19 deaths. Statistics Netherlands registered 7,886 coronavirus deaths. 

In weeks 10 to 17, an estimated 8,300 more people died than could be expected for the time of year, the so-called excess mortality. Statistics Netherlands attributed the vast majority, 7,886, of these excess deaths to the coronavirus. As a few cause of death statements are still outstanding for these weeks, that number may still increase.

More men than women died of Covid-19 in March and April, 4,451 men and 3,836 women. The average age of men who died of the coronavirus was 79.6 years, and women 83.4 years. 

The preliminary figures also showed that fewer people died of cardiovascular disease and cancer in March and April than the year before. The number of people who died of a mental health disorder or nervous system disease like dementia remained about the same. The number of suicides was roughly equal in March and slightly lower in April than the same months last year. And the number of people who died in traffic in March and April was about the same as the same months in 2019.