Dutch coronavirus deaths could be twice as high as reported

New research shows that the number of people who died from the effects of coronavirus in the first 11 weeks of the epidemic could be 50 to 100% higher than RIVM has documented. 

The research was released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Wednesday after developing a new method for calculating excess mortality. The institute estimates that excess mortality was between 8,593 and 11,691 people between March 9 and May 24. In the same period, RIVM only registered 5,900 coronavirus deaths.

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“This means that in addition to every ten corona deaths registered, between five and ten people died from corona disease,” said CBS. However, CBS doesn’t have information about cause of death, so it cannot be certain that all deaths are due to coronavirus. This information is likely to be released at a later date.

Why is there a gap in reported deaths and excess mortality?

The excess deaths are because RIVM only includes deaths of those who already tested positive for the virus in the statistics. The Dutch government was criticised in the early days of the pandemic for its lax approach to testing. It’s likely that far more people died from coronavirus who were not tested at all. CBS says this led to the total impact of coronavirus to be underestimated.

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Calculating the excess mortality figure can give a clearer view of the impact, says CBS. The excess mortality figure is calculated using data from municipalities compared to the number of deaths in a comparable period.

Why did researchers not look after May 24?

After May 24 there was no excess mortality — essentially, fewer people died than would normally be expected compared to previous years. However, this could also be because the people who would have died during this period passed away earlier than usual, during the weeks of over-mortality.

Are you surprised by the latest information? Tell us your thoughts on the Dutch approach in the comments below.

Feature Image: Brett Sayles/Pexels

Samantha Dixon
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.


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