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The European Mortality Monitoring Project (Euromomo) tracks

on a real-time basis, excess number of deaths related to influenza and other possible public health threats across participating European Countries.

They published an automatically updated map, which in Week 11, 2020 (i.e. March 9 - March 15) shows Italy as "no excess" in the "z-score".

screenshot of euromomo

However, there is no shortage of media reports describing a drastic increases in deaths due to COVID-19:

  • Daily Mail, 19 March 2020

    The column of 15 army trucks manned by 50 soldiers brought the dead out of the city of Bergamo in Lombardy

    [...]

    It came as Italy recorded a record 4,207 infections and 475 new deaths from the virus yesterday,

    Cemetery in Bergamo can no longer cope with the mounting death toll in the city, where at least 93 have died

  • Al Jazeera, 21 Mar 2020

    627 die in a single day in Italy

    Italy announced 627 more deaths on Friday, the biggest day-to-day increase in the country's four-week epidemic

  • la Republicca, March 18, 2020

    as is now known, is that the mortuary in Bergamo has not been able to accommodate the coffin of coronavirus victims for days

    To relieve the mortuary of the cemetery - with no more space available - it had been necessary in recent days to line up the coffins of the deceased in the church of Ognissanti"

    Military trucks to carry bodies of the Corona victims in Italy - Bergamo

Why does this map not match the newspaper reports?

  • 2
    Is it as simple as data from different weeks? – Oddthinking Mar 23 at 11:03
  • 2
    "627 die in a single day" ... If that number is minuscule compared to the usual daily deaths from automobile accidents, then perhaps it will not show up in the "excess mortaility" statistics. Especially if auto accidents are down because people are staying home. – GEdgar Mar 23 at 11:16
  • 1
    @GEdgar a normal day has about 1750 deaths in Italy. 10.6 per 1000 per year knoema.com/atlas/Italy/Death-rate – DavePhD Mar 23 at 12:48
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    @GEdgar On a provincial level, that is certainly not miniscule anymore compared to traffic casualties. – gerrit Mar 23 at 13:12
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    Does this answer your question? Is COVID-19 more dangerous than typical annual coronavirus variants? The mortality in EuroMOMO has been discussed there already. – SX welcomes ageist gossip Mar 23 at 19:20
23

The Economist now has an (April 3) article on this, discussing the death stats from Bergamo specifically.

enter image description here

Official death tolls for covid-19 may exclude people who died before they could be tested. They also ignore people who succumbed to other causes, perhaps because hospitals had no room to treat them. The latter group has been large in other disasters. For example, when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017, America recorded only 64 deaths. A study later found that the surge in total deaths was close to 3,000. Many occurred in hospitals that lost power.

Such analysis is not yet possible for nations battling covid-19. The only European country whose total death rate (as calculated by Euromomo, a research group) had spiked by March 20th was Italy. This estimate is based on a group of cities. Unfortunately, Italy does not break down covid-19 deaths by city, precluding a comparison of covid-19 and total deaths in the same area.

However, journalists and scholars have crunched their own numbers. L’Eco di Bergamo, a newspaper, has obtained data from 82 localities in Italy’s Bergamo province. In March these places had 2,420 more deaths than in March 2019. Just 1,140, less than half of the increase, were attributed to covid-19. “The data is the tip of the iceberg,” Giorgio Gori, the mayor of Bergamo’s capital, told L’Eco. “Too many victims are not included in the reports because they die at home.”

(As a side note: until April 3, French reports didn't even include deaths in nursing homes.)

And for the broader context:

Comparable figures can be found across Europe. In Spain El País, a newspaper, has published the results of a study by the government’s health research centre, showing that “excess” deaths in the Castile-La Mancha region were double the number attributed to covid-19. Jean-Marc Manach, a French reporter, has found a similar disparity in the department of Haut-Rhin.

enter image description here

So yes, using more accurate local statistics, the extra deaths do "pop up" in graphs, even for the present level of uncertainty.

And actually EuroMOMO now (April 7) shows excess scores for several more countries:

enter image description here

The fact that Italy and Spain are in "the top" z-scores should be self-explanatory by now.


Since there's a misleading chart (for all countries) posted in another answer below, here some updates on the total excess figures in EuroMOMO (not by country), compared to previous years/seaons:

enter image description here

The downward (post-peak) slope in the last chart for 2020 should be interpreted with caution, for there are extra delays in reports nowadays. Interestingly, on cumulated excess deaths, the data insofar for 2020 is enough to put 2020 above the prior years back to 2016:

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    Great answer. Post-facto statistical analysis is going to be the only way to get a reasonably accurate estimation of deaths. There's too many factors making the reported COVID-19 numbers inaccurate, even in countries where there's no deliberate intention to mislead. – Ask About Monica Apr 7 at 21:04
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The answer to this question is simply "the presented data was not yet up-to-date".

Compare the colour of Italy in the screenshot from the question for Week 11, 2020:

EuroMomo screenshot, March 23

With a screenshot taken slightly over two weeks later of the exact same Week 11.

EuroMomo screenshot, April 8

This change is entirely consistent with the warning at the base of the map about interpretation.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This should be correct answer, imo – TCooper Apr 28 at 21:05
3

The Euromomo home page contains a a statement:

Note concerning COVID-19 related mortality as part of the all-cause mortality figures reported by EuroMOMO

Over the past few days, the EuroMOMO hub has received many questions about the weekly all-cause mortality data and the possible contribution of any COVID-19 related mortality. Some wonder why no increased mortality is observed in the reported mortality figures for the COVID-19 affected countries.

The answer is that increased mortality that may occur primarily at subnational level or within smaller focal areas, and/or concentrated within smaller age groups, may not be detected at the overall national level. This even more so in the pooled European-wide analysis, given the large total population denominator. Furthermore, there is always a few weeks of delay in death registration and reporting. Hence, the EuroMOMO mortality figures for the most recent weeks must be interpreted with some caution.

Therefore, although increased mortality is currently not being observed in the EuroMOMO figures, this does not mean that increased mortality does not occur in some areas or in some age groups, including mortality related to COVID-19."

TL;DR
A lot of people died in a small area (city of Bergamo) but in the large numbers of the whole country (Italy) there is no unusual excess mortality.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics!. Bergamo is a city and a province. Based on some (now deleted) text, I assume you were talking about the city, and linked to more context. If you were talking about the province, this should be fixed. – Oddthinking Mar 23 at 13:46
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Yes, there is "excess mortality" in Italy and other countries in March 2020 in Europe. It is clear from euoromomo site https://www.euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps/#pooled-by-age-group. Countries like Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany (Berlin and Hesse), Hungary, Irelnad, Luxemburg, Malta, Norway and Portugal do not report abnormal number of deaths until 13 week of 2020. COVID-19 is present everywhere in all countries. Thus controlling factor of excess mortality is unknown and needs additional investigation.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics. Do you understand you are quoting the original source back at the OP? Your last two sentences seem to be a nonsequitur. – Oddthinking Apr 28 at 19:15
  • Yes, I do understand that I am quoting same source but this is different visualization of same data set proving the fact that mortality rate in Italy and some other countries is distinctly higher than other contributing in euromomo states in Europe. Followed sentences are just explanatory. – user55499 Apr 28 at 20:59
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    Just noticed that graphs (euromome) presented here up in this site (7 of April) use different color schemes and thresholds from actual today. I personally prefer to look at data in linear functional graphs when have to analyse data in depth. – user55499 Apr 28 at 21:20
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    I recommend including the graph you are basing your analysis upon. We have seen from other answers that the latest 3 weeks or so of data is provisional. You should mention that because you are relying on that data. The question is about Italy in week 11, so you should focus on that rather than most of Europe. If you graph Italy's numbers with the tool, you will see by week 11, the numbers appear abnormally high. – Oddthinking Apr 28 at 21:35
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    @user5549o: but we've established the graphs get updated frequently, and by default it doesn't focus on Italy, which is what the question is about. – Oddthinking Apr 29 at 3:08
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Well, if you take a town like Nembro (in the province - not the city - of Bergamo) that has a population of 11,518 and then use a ratio per 100,000, of course one single death will show up as way out of the baseline roughly 10 times more).

However, if you do analyze excess mortality in absolute numbers (and I believe this is the original question), there are less people dying every week all over Europe than in the similar period of the last 3 years.

From the original Euromomo link, the pooled number of deaths:

enter image description here

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  • Your graph would benefit from a key and attribution of the source. – Bitter dreggs. Apr 7 at 22:24
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    This is incorrect and promotes its own conspiracy theroy rather than answering the quesiton. The up-to-date date has new peak in 2020 which is shifted, unlike those prior nasty flu seaonss euromomo.eu/outputs/images/Pooled-number.png – SX welcomes ageist gossip Apr 10 at 14:11
  • I've put a post notice on this, to highlight to readers that the source that this analysis was based upon has been updated, and now the conclusion is unsubstantiated. – Oddthinking Apr 12 at 4:07
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    The euromomo site has updated and corrected the data for week 13, and there is now a global spike on week 13. In Italy the spike is indeed higher than any previous year, so there currently is an excess mortality in Italy. – Bruno Garcia Apr 14 at 11:44

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