MADRID – Spain is the seventh country in the EU with the highest increase in mortality rate during the pandemic. However, different authorities in Spain give different numbers of deaths that can be directly attributed to Covid-19 in the years 2020 and 2021.
Finding out the exact number of people who died due to the pandemic is practically impossible, according to 20Minutos. Whether as a direct or indirect consequence, we may never know exactly how many lives the coronavirus has claimed. However, several sources allow to approximate that number and conclude between 80,000 and 88,000 fatalities. The Ministry of Health gives the lowest estimate.
The official mortality rate figure provided by the Ministry of Health is 80,652 deaths. The MoMo raises that figure to 86,431 deaths from any cause. And the Spanish statistical office INE calculates 88,412 more deaths than in 2019. Eurostat estimates that 19.1% more people have died in the months of the pandemic than expected in Spain. The 20Minutos newspaper published these numbers in an article on Monday, June 21. To understand where the difference between these four sources comes from, we look at the main nuances that distinguish them.
Ministry of Health: 80,652 dead
The data published by Public Health in its daily reports is the most direct source for understanding the mortality evolution. However, due to their speed of publication, they are also the least accurate figures. Every day, the total number of people who have died and had a positive corona test is reported. On Friday 18 June, this figure was 80,652 people.
This information is provided to the National Ministry of Health by the Autonomous Communities through a SiViES computer platform. This is operated by the National Centre for Epidemiology (CNE). For each case of coronavirus the communities detect, a file is opened and loaded into the system.
In this way, if the total of one day is subtracted from the previous one, it is possible to know how many more people have died from the coronavirus. However, this calculation does not reflect the actual date of death. That usually takes a little longer to figure out. Furthermore, the CNE prepares a series of deaths listed by date of death. This statistic gives a much more accurate picture of how mortality is distributed over time.
MoMo: 86,431 more deaths
The Health Institute Carlos III (Isciii), which also depends on the Ministry of Health, is conducting another pandemic mortality calculation which some say is more complete. It also sheds light on the indirect impacts of the coronavirus.
The so-called Daily Mortality Monitoring System (MoMo) was created by the ministry in 2004. It was formed to detect “any event of possible importance to public health”. This is based on variations in the numbers of deaths known on a daily basis. However, prior to the pandemic, it was mainly used to monitor the effects of heat waves and seasonal flu epidemics.
The MoMo is based on data from the 4,000 computerised civil registrations in Spain. It covers all provinces and represents 93% of the national population. This system produces a statistical model based on data from previous years of what would be considered the normal mortality curve. Should there be significant upward or downward deviations, they are detected and reflected.
This system estimates that 86,431 more people have died during the pandemic than would be expected under normal circumstances. This is an excessive mortality spread over five periods. MoMo reports 5,579 more deaths than the Department of Health. These are mostly deaths that occurred during the first wave but were not recorded due to the health system collapse.
INE: 88,412 more deaths than in 2019
Since June last year, the INE has published an experimental statistic every two weeks to also assess the impact of the pandemic on the nation. The system is also based on death data from the registry office and provides a comparison with previous years.
Unlike MoMo’s figures, which come from a somewhat more sophisticated system that is very specific about what is considered an unexpected death, the calculation of the INE compares the number of deaths that occurred in a specific week of the pandemic with the number of deaths in 2019, the last normal year.
On Wednesday, the INE reported that in 2020 alone there were 74,227 more deaths than the year before, the largest increase in the death rate since the post-war era. In addition, the agency calculates there have been 14,185 more deaths so far this year (2021) than in 2019. Therefore, this leaves a balance of 88,412 deaths so far in the pandemic. Moreover, it is a figure surpassing that of the Department and MoMo. .
Eurostat: average excess mortality of 19.1%
The European Statistical Office (Eurostat) makes a calculation that is easier to compare excess mortality from all causes in different European countries to measure the impact of the pandemic. Member States provide Eurostat with their weekly death rates and the agency estimates the exceedance using a statistical model that compares the data with the death series from 2016 to 2019.
Increase in mortality rate
In this way, it can be seen that the pandemic has caused a tragedy significantly greater in Spain than in most of the surrounding European countries. According to Eurostat, Spain experienced an average increase in mortality rate of 19.1% from any cause between March 2020 and April 2021 than would be expected under normal circumstances. This figure places Spain as the seventh European country with the highest percentage of additional deaths, after the Czech Republic (27.6%), Poland (26.7%), Slovakia (25.3%), Bulgaria (23%), Slovenia (19 .8%) and Romania (19.2%).