Heatwave provokes 238 excess deaths in seven days

… but excess deaths as a subject “will need long period of investigation” – health secretary

Excess deaths is the new ‘buzz phrase’ in the media, with various outlets citing a DGS health authority statement about the number of ‘excess deaths’ provoked by the current heatwave.

According to a note sent out yesterday by health director Graça Freitas, 238 more people (than usual) died between July 7-13 – a phenomenon blamed squarely (and possibly fairly) on the heatwave.

These deaths appear to have taken place among “the most vulnerable people”, suggesting the elderly/ chronically ill.

DGS advice is that all vulnerable members of society, including children, need special care through the heat.

But this reason, so frequently trotted out, cannot be the full answer for excess deaths.

Put it another way, excess deaths have been rising since the start of the pandemic; they are not all down to Covid-19 – and, according to specialist forecasts, ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet’.

Yesterday in parliament, health secretary António Lacerda Sales addressed the parliamentary committee looking into the phenomenon – suggesting (again) that hot weather was part of the reason for the excess deaths in 2020 (the year cited in the latest national health council report).

He told the committee, hot weather, flu and Covid-19 were the culprits for 2020’s figures “but that also a peak without specific cause that needs a long period of investigation” was apparent.

“Investigation should be made over the next five to 10 years”, he told the committee, “to exclude (the possibility that) the increase is a passing phenomenon.

Online media outlet Página Um is becoming famous for its own scrutiny of official data. It is pursuing more recent figures, writing earlier this week that “since January, one in 10 people over the age of 80 have died.

“It has nothing to do with the current heatwave”, says the online. “Last Sunday, accumulated mortality among the most elderly (those above 85) since January this year exceeded the atrocious numbers of 2021 when January and February broke all records for deaths. But contrary to what happened in 2021 death now is happening in spring and summer, in a persistent silent way – contrary to what would be expected. This has been a muted event”, the article continues – alleging the overall picture takes on the proportions of “geronticide”.

Página Um presents what it calls “a detailed analysis” of its claims, urging “investigation, which can be judicial”.

Other outlets, like Jornal de Notícias, have picked up on the subject – JN reporting in an ‘exclusive today’ that mortality is “very much higher than expected”, with last Friday, for example – certainly one of the hottest so far this year – registering 17 people dying EVERY HOUR.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com