Excess deaths over last month in Portugal: Less than half attributed to Covid

Another study on excess deaths in Portugal during the pandemic has indicated at the collateral damage of focus on Covid-19.

Less than 47% of ‘the number of more than average deaths’ in the last month had anything to do with the virus.

Criticism of world governments ‘ignoring’ other ailments and illnesses is borne out by the numbers.

These latest figures, published today by INE – national statistics institute – refer to the period October 5 to November 1, in which this year there were 1,132 more deaths than the average for the last five years.

Of that total, only 526 were attributed to Covid-19.

Taking the pandemic period as a whole, and the proportions get worse. Since March 2 and November 1 only 29.3% of the 8,686 ‘excess deaths’ have been put down to Covid.

The national total of deaths for this period was 77,249. Says INE, the marked increase in the number of national deaths has been “one of the most dramatic consequences of the effects of the pandemic”. It’s even more dramatic when one realises such a ‘small proportion of them’ were down to the virus.

INE’s numbers are also revealing in terms of chronology. “More than 70% of the people who died between March and November were 75 or over, and of these 60% were 85 or older (32,878).

In comparison with the average number of deaths between 2015-2019, 7,449 “more people died aged 75 or over, of which 5,802 were 85 or over”.

Deaths were fairly evenly spread in terms of gender: 38,262 were men, 38,987 women.

Says INE’s report, 46, 125 deaths occurred in hospitals (that again is 2,868 more than the average number of hospital deaths over the last five years) while 31.124 happened ‘at home or in other places’, which is extremely disturbing as this represents an increase from the last five year average of 5,817.

Authorities have said that they will be studying the reasons for 2020’s high tally of excess deaths so far (bearing in mind they cannot be ‘blamed on Covid’) but since saying this nothing further has been mentioned.

When quizzed originally, back in the summer, about the possible reasons for the increased number of excess deaths, DGS health director Graça Freitas suggested it could be down to ‘heat waves’. This suggestion has cut little ice with critics who suggest the reason is much more due to health services’ cancelling thousands of consultations, surgeries and routine tests since the pandemic took hold.

In fact, Porto IPO (the cancer hospital) seems to bear this out today in a text in which its surgical director tells Lusa news agency that the hospital is “worried” by the reduction in the number of new cases being referred for initial treatment.

The hospital’s intake of people with a first diagnosis of breast cancer has reduced by 26% since the start of the pandemic, while digestive tumor detection is down by 33%.

“We don’t want to create problems, we want to arrange solutions”, explains Joaquim Abreu Sousa. “We have the ethical duty to emphasise the necessity for cancer patients to continue to have access to early diagnosis and adequate treatment. 

“In my opinion it is not acceptable to pass on the idea that the successful treatment of diseases with greater lethality than Covid, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, depends on the success of Covid’s treatment”, he added.

“It is obvious that a large part of resources and effort is being directed towards the treatment of Covid patients”, the surgical director continued… “I do not make value judgements. But right now there is a widespread panic over Covid to the extent that diseases with lethality much higher are being delayed diagnosis and treatment. If I have a reduction in (the referral of first cases) of one third compared to the same period last year, something is happening here…”

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com