1. No numerically detectable pandemic in 2020

Regarding actual numerical data, one has to remain extremely prudent. Numbers in themselves are meaningless. What matters is their interpretation. In particular mathematical models are reductive. Considering ‘covid’ data is inappropriate because of the unclear identification of the disease and the meaninglessness of the tests, whose number of positive results depends on the number of cycles, this number is not usually known and seemingly varies according to country, but also according to the organisation performing them. Hence only all-cause mortality may provide some information.

So let us consider the weekly all-cause mortality data by age group for a large selection of European countries found on the Eurostat[1] and the British Office of National Statistics (ONS) databases. We compare the mortality in 2020 with that of 2015, the latter having witnessed the highest number of deaths after WW2 in many of these countries. We do so by subdividing the population into age groups: 0-19, 20-54, 60-64, 65-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89, 90-94, 95-99,+100. For each age group, we divide the number of deaths for 2015 by the number of inhabitants on 1/1/2015, and then multiply it by the number of inhabitants on 1/1/2020. This gives the number of deaths expected in each age group for 2020, were the mortality rate per capita for each group the same as in 2015. Adding we get the total number of deaths expected in 2020 taking 2015 as our standard year and taking account of age distribution.

We find that for Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, France metropolitan, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway, the number of actual deaths in 2020 is less than this expected number of deaths, while for Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Slovakia, the difference is so negligible that it may be due to mere statistical error. This is illustrated by Table 1 (see Appendix): it gives the difference between this number of expected deaths and the actual number of deaths that occurred in 2020 per 10000 people. The greater this difference (the more positive), the greater the actual number of deaths compared to the expected number. The numbers are only an indication of how countries compare. In particular, for England and Wales, population data found for 2020 did not allow a breakdown of the age group over 90, and hence its comparison is more approximative. Besides mortality in 2015 was not necessarily particularly high in all countries.

The higher number of of actual deaths in 2020  than the expected number expected deaths can be explained by an older population. It is not that proportionally the elderly have died more than in 2015 in the deaths so far rather the contrary: the proportion of deaths among the elderly is less as follows from the comparison of expected numbers and actual numbers of deaths for the various age groups (see spreadsheet 2020-2015). It is simply that their numbers have very much increased.

Note that except for France and Austria, this list also follows from the table of relative cumulative age-standardised mortality rates (rcASMRs) for European countries given by the ONS.[2] This table gives the extent to which at each week, cumulated mortality until that week differs from the average annual age-standardised mortality rate in 2015-2019. For France and Austria, 2015 had much more deaths than the following years, and hence comparing with the average leaves them out.

For Malta, Iceland and Norway, mortality in 2020 was lower than in 2015 per 100 000, for England and Wales,[3] for every year prior to 2003 (included), and for Luxembourg,[4] for all years prior to 2007 (included). For Denmark,[5] Latvia, and Norway, mortality in the first 52 weeks of 2020 was also lower than for the period 52 weeks of 2018. In other words, for these countries, even without taking account of age distribution, the increase in population is sufficient to explain the higher numbers of deaths in 2020.

To this should be added that for Belgium,[6] as well as England and Wales,[7] the age standardized mortality rate for 2020 is also lower than all years before 2008 included. In fact, redoing the above calculation, taking 2008 as our reference year, rather than 2015, we find that every single country considered had less deaths in 2020 than the number expected except for two: Bulgaria and Romania, as table 1 shows had the worst number of deaths compared to 2015. Considering their evolution of mortality shows that for the former it has been increasing steadily since 1960,[8] and for the latter since 1970,[9] with the occasional temporary short decrease, fluctuations being greater for the latter. Hence the 2020 increase can in no way be attributed to a pandemic, especially as 2020 mortality for neighbouring countries was not worse than many recent years.

In conclusion, whatever may be the interpretation of the data, mortality in 2020 is not unprecedented in Europe this century, and fits with the overall pattern for each country.

This confirms that there has been no pandemic in 2020, a conclusion further corroborated by the fact that except for countries where there has been a population decline in the last years, barring Germany, population has increased everywhere during the year.  In the case of a pandemic of any noticeable severity it would decrease sharply (beyond any steady decrease in countries where this has been happening for some years).  In the case of Germany, given there is no decrease among its neighbours except as part of a pattern going back years, the reasons are not due to a pandemic, but possibly to the measures taken.

 

 

 

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/comparisonsofallcausemortalitybetweeneuropeancountriesandregions
  3. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/12735annualdeathsandmortalityrates1938to2020provisional
  4. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CDRT.IN?end=2019&locations=LU&start=1960
  5. https://www.dst.dk/en/Statistik/emner/befolkning-og-valg/doedsfald-og-middellevetid/doedsfald
  6. https://www.belgiqueenbonnesante.be/fr/etat-de-sante/mortalite-et-causes-de-deces/mortalite-generale
  7. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/adhocs/12735annualdeathsandmortalityrates1938to2020provisional
  8. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CDRT.IN?end=2019&locations=BG&start=1960
  9. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CDRT.IN?end=2019&locations=RO&start=1960