Greece experienced among the greatest decreases (+26%) in excess mortality for 2021 according to the latest data published by Eurostat.
Excess mortality refers to the number of deaths from all causes measured during a crisis, above what could be observed in ‘normal’ conditions.
With the pandemic starting in 2020 the EU experienced two cycles of excess mortality: the first between March and May 2020 (with a peak of +25% in April), then a longer one between August 2020 and the end of the year (with a peak of +40% in November).
Overall, in May 2021 the excess mortality in the EU started to decrease (+9%), following a recent peak in April 2021 (+20%) and after as much as +40% in November 2020 (compared with the averages of the same months in 2016 – 2019). It continued to vary across the EU Member States: from -1% in Portugal to +26% in Greece and Poland in May 2021.
During the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the highest excess mortality rates in the EU were recorded in the Italian and Spanish regions. In April 2020, three countries had more than 50 % excess mortality: Spain (80.5 %), Belgium (73.1 %) and the Netherlands (53.8 %). Four other countries exceeded a 35 % increase in mortality in April, namely Italy (41.7 %, although the highest increase had already occurred in March at 49.6 %), Sweden (38.2 %), Ireland (37.1 %) and France (36.4 %).
In April 2020, Luxembourg experienced an excess mortality level of 18.5 %, Austria 11.0 % and Germany 9.1 %. Several countries, however, spiked in excess mortality in other months of 2020: Malta (16.7 %) in March, Cyprus (25.0 %) in May, Lithuania (8.2 %) and Slovenia (9.5 %) in June, and Portugal (25.8 %) in July. In all these countries, a relatively stable period (compared to the 2016-2019 baseline) followed the high increase of mortality in spring. In Belgium, there was even a significant decrease (-7.1 %) in July.
Then, a second sharp increase in excess mortality took place in most Member States, even in those not particularly concerned by peaks in spring 2020. More than a 10 % increase, compared to the baseline, was registered for the first time in Romania in July (11.8 %), in Poland in August (11.3 %), and in Czechia (11.4 %) and Greece (10.3 %) in September 2020.
Starting from September 2020, the increase became stronger and more widespread, reaching new peaks in November, with significantly high rates in Poland (97.0 %), Bulgaria (94.0 %), Slovenia (91.3 %), Czechia (75.8 %), Romania (62.6 %) and Hungary (59.1 %). In the EU, countries that were already strongly affected in spring 2020, saw excess mortality rise high again in November, see Belgium (58.8 %), Italy (51.6 %), Austria (47.8 %), Malta (38.3 %), France (31.3 %) and Spain (24.2 %).