Comparing Covid-19 fatality rates around the world

di Priscilla Pajdo del January 27, 2021

TORONTO - Reporting mechanisms of Covid-19 statistics vary throughout the world. Various trackers keep count of total confirmed cases, how many of those have recovered and the number of fatalities attributable to the virulent virus. Now that vaccines are available in numerous countries around the world, data trackers also help the interested follow the progress in vaccination rates.

Data presented in its countless forms provide an opportunity to study and compare results from one component to the next. When considering Covid-19 and its affects, the most absolute of values are those of fatalities. In such an instance, there is no rehabilitation, no recovery and no resurrection.

It can be difficult to analyze and compare death figures from one jurisdiction to the next. In some cases, different methods are used to count fatalities attributable to Covid-19. For instance, in the early stages of the pandemic, only hospital deaths were accounted for. It was only later that countries began to register the Covid-19 deaths that occurred within the community.

The UK only started including fatalities in longterm care homes in late April 2020. The demographics of a nation are also elements to consider. Age is a big component because mortality rates are often higher among older populations.

The characteristics of the healthcare system also play a part in fatality rates. As infections increase within communities, the likely sequence of events leads to an increase in hospitalizations. Overwhelmed hospitals mean greater strain on the healthcare system.

As a result, there is a lack of adequate care for patients, which unfortunately leads to increased mortality rates.

To put things in context, the fatality rate in the following charts are Covid-19 deaths per one million of population (pmp).

The selection of countries/jurisdictions included are those with populations greater than ten million and have some of the highest fatalities pmp (chart 1).

Belgium, by far, has the world’s most depressing death rate. At 1,791 deaths pmp, one can only wonder how a wealthy nation with an economy guided by science and technological development could rank number one on a list in which no country wishes to take part.

The UK and Italy rank second and third on the list. Both countries have experienced some of the highest fatality rates since the onset of the pandemic.

Although the USA has reported the greatest number of fatalities (431,397) among countries worldwide, it ranks fourth on the list when considering the rate of 1,299 deaths pmp. If Canada had the same rate as the USA, based on its population, it would have registered roughly nine times as many deaths as currently tabulated.

Take a look at the rate closer to home. Ontario, for instance, has one of the lowest rates when compared to other sub-national jurisdictions (chart 2).

The rate of 396 pmp is far lower than its Canadian neighbour to the east, Quebec, at 1,110 pmp, and much lower than its neighbouring American states.

Although New York is the US state with the greatest number of fatalities, over 42,600, it is the state of New Jersey that ranks the highest with 2,361 deaths pmp.

So, whether one is feeling COVID-19- fatigue or fed-up with social distancing and lockdown measures, a closer look at these rates may put things into perspective.

On that basis, Ontario seems almost bearable.


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