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Covid-19 prompted “almost 6% of deaths in 2020”

Covid listed as ‘second cause of death last year’

Using headlines that slightly skew the picture, national media has interpreted the latest INE data on deaths in 2020 to say “Covid was the second cause of death”.

The reality is that less than 6% of the nation’s deaths were attributed to Covid-19 because ‘cancers’ were divided into their different kinds.

For example, figures were given for cancers of the trachea, bronchioles and lung (3.5% of the total number of deaths last year) – separated from cancers of the colon, rectum and anus (3.4%). Other cancers haven’t even been mentioned by reports today.

Had cancers all been accounted for together, ‘cancer’ would be way ahead of Covid for causes of death last year. Indeed, SIC has admitted that “malignant tumours were responsible for more than half of all deaths in Portugal”.

Investigative website PáginaUM meantime has gone into DGS/ SNS mortality figures and found that “never in the last few years have so few people died in hospitals due to cancer”. This, it concludes, is almost certainly because “a very significant number of terminal cancer patients who died during the pandemic – and probably in many cases unjustifiably – had Covid-19 given as the cause of death, inflating the impact of Covid-19. This way, also without justification, cancer statistics are biased, underestimated”.

Be that as it may, today’s statistics are what media outlets had to work with – and they reported as follows: “AVC and Covid principal causes of death in 2020”.

Some were more sensationalist: “Covid second cause of death”… only further down the text admitting numbers didn’t even account for 6%.

Boiling all the numbers down, there were 7,125 deaths from Covid-19 (affecting men more than women) while the media age of victims was 83.4 years old (women) and 79.9 years old (men).

Life expectancy in Portugal is 80.68 years – so one can see how those dying of Covid-19 were ‘taken from this world’ at statistically very much the time expected.

In terms of regions, the north and Metropolitan Areas of Lisbon had the highest number of victims (corresponding with the areas of highest population/ highest levels of pollution); Madeira the least number.

The north registered 91.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants; Lisbon/ Vale do Tejo 71.5, Madeira just 5.9.

Circulatory diseases “continued to be the origin of the highest number of deaths in Portugal in 2020 (34,593) – registering an increase of 2.9% on the year before, and 28% of the total number of deaths: AVC’s took 11,439 lives (4.2% up on 2019’s tally); ischemic heart disease 6,838, and acute myocardial infarction (the medical term for a ‘heart attack’) 4,086. In both cases, these were 4.4% less than deaths in these categories flagged in 2019.

In total in 2020, 123,720 people died in Portugal in 2020, while 84,426 babies were born to mothers resident in this country.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com