Europe had nearly 50 percent more deaths than normal at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, according to data compiled by Britain’s and France’s national statistics agencies, with tens of thousands more people dying the last week of March and the first week of April than in previous years.
As Europe became the epicenter of the pandemic in the late winter and early spring, many countries implemented nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus, which was already killing thousands. Most of the excess deaths were in four big, hard-hit countries — Britain, Italy, Spain and France.
In their worst weeks, Belgium, England, France and Spain all had more than twice as many deaths than was usual for the time of year.
England had the second highest peak mortality after Spain in Europe, and “the longest continuous period of excess mortality,” according to a report published by Britain’s Office for National Statistics on Wednesday. Britain had registered over 55,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths as of mid-July, and is the worst-hit country in Europe.
Although European countries encountered wide discrepancies in their excess deaths, most saw a rise over the course of two deadly weeks, from March 30 to April 12. During the last week of March, the deadliest across Europe with 33,000 excess deaths, Spain alone registered over 12,500 more deaths than would be expected when compared with data from 2016 to 2019, a 155 percent increase, and Italy over 6,500, according to data provided by the French national statistics agency, INSEE. The following week, Belgium recorded over 2,000 excess deaths, an increase of nearly 110 percent compared with data from previous years.
The coronavirus has depleted nursing homes across the continent, infected thousands of health care workers, and revealed how some of the most stable countries in the world were unprepared for a pandemic, although several national security agencies had defined it as one of the most critical threats that their countries could face.