The crew at the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) have done an analysis of excess mortality for 2020 across 32 countries to get a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns. They used excess mortality instead of “Covid deaths”, they explain, to avoid problems with recording and classification of deaths and include any impact of anti-Covid measures. They used age-adjusted mortality to take into account differences in the average age of populations. They compared 2020’s figures to the average of the previous five years to give a percentage increase or excess during the pandemic year (they have made the tool they used to analyse the data publicly available).
The results are plotted in the graph below. Perhaps the most telling result is that Sweden, which did not impose strict lockdown measures throughout the year (it kept all retail and hospitality and most schools open and imposed no restrictions on private gatherings) saw only a 1.5% increase in age-adjusted mortality. Surely no one can argue that such a small increase in mortality (and almost entirely among the elderly and already unwell) can justify the severe and harmful suspensions of civil liberties we have endured over the past year?
The CEBM team made the following observations on the results.
Relative excess mortality in the countries we have examined ranges from -4.3% to 14.4% and is strongly positively correlated with the recorded number of COVID-19 deaths (r = 0.8). Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia and Norway experienced fewer deaths in 2020 according to our analysis. As we would expect, these countries have recorded a lower number of COVID-19 deaths than other countries. For example, Iceland, Norway and Finland have all recorded fewer than 12 per 100,000 COVID-19 deaths. Denmark and Latvia are perhaps exceptions to this having recorded 32 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 and Latvia 54 per 100,000.
A number of eastern European countries saw little or no excess deaths in the first half of the year but have experienced significant excess mortality in the second half of 2020. Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia with Poland and Bulgaria exhibiting levels of excess mortality of the same order of magnitude as the countries in the centre of the first wave (e.g. Spain, France, England and Wales, Italy).
The USA which has often been cited as the worse affected country (often using the total number of COVID-19 deaths) has relative excess of 12.9%, which although one of the highest, is below some with even higher relative excess mortality such as Poland and Chile.
Talking of the USA, here’s an update on how the states are doing, comparing those which issued stay-at-home lockdown orders this winter with those that did not. No-lockdown states continue to have fewer Covid deaths per million than lockdown states, though the gap has narrowed a bit since February 1st, when lockdown states had 5.7% more deaths per million, to 4.2% on March 13th.
Lockdowns were sold to the public as a way of suppressing the virus that would otherwise kill many times more people than it would under lockdown conditions. The data from a year of lockdowns clearly contradicts the models which predicted such an outcome. With no-lockdown countries and states recording fewer Covid deaths per million than those which locked down, such models evidently massively over-estimated both the deadliness of the virus and the efficacy of lockdowns.
A clear-headed Government would now learn from this data and reject any advice based on such unreliable modelling and insist any models to be used for policymaking be calibrated against real-world controls such as Sweden and Florida. If models cannot accurately predict the death toll for places which do not implement interventions then they must be rejected. This is the bare minimum that must be asked of our scientific advisers and their mathematical models.
Lockdowns were first imposed by China and introduced into the West by Italy, having been peremptorily endorsed by the WHO, despite having no evidence to support their efficacy and being contrary to official guidance and pre-prepared pandemic plans.
As an increasing number of states in America reject lockdowns as a means of infection control, we need to do all we can to ensure the lockdowns of the last year become a blip in history and not a permanent feature of Western disease management.