Press Death figures have exceeded previous years’ average since end of March

Signs of excess mortality in connection with the coronavirus pandemic

Press release No. 162 of 8 May 2020

WIESBADEN – According to provisional results, death figures in Germany have exceeded the averages of corresponding calendar weeks in 2016 to 2019 since Week 13 (23 to 29 March 2020). At least 19,385 people died in Week 13, at least 20,207 in Week 14 (30 March to 5 April) and at least 19,872 in Week 15 (6 to 12 April). According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), the upward deviation of the number of deaths from the four-year average was highest in Week 15 (by roughly 2,000 cases or 11%). When that week is compared with the same week of each individual year, the number of deaths was within a range of 18% above the figure recorded for 2017 and 4% above the figure for 2018. The current development is striking because death figures tend to decline notably from week to week at this time of the year as the influenza epidemic recedes. This suggests that there is excess mortality in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Cases of death in Germany in Weeks 13 to 15
 Week 13Week 14Week 15
Absolute difference from .. 
2016-2019 average+446+1,727+1,979
Relative difference from ... 
2016-2019 average+2%+9%+11%

According to the definition used here, excess mortality means that more people die at a specific point in time in the course of a year than would have been expected to die in view of the mortality of previous years (in this case, 2016 to 2019).

Number of deaths above average in other countries as well

Total death figures are presently used in many countries to assess whether there is excess mortality in connection with the pandemic. Registered and unregistered COVID-19 deaths can contribute to such development, as can deaths which are only indirectly related with the pandemic. Compared with other European countries, excess mortality in Germany is low to date. At present, the national statistical institutes of Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain, for instance, partly show much higher death figures compared with the averages of previous years. In contrast, no marked changes are observed for Norway and the Czech Republic. The figures provided by each country are based on national methods and individual time periods. Some data refer to the reporting date, not the actual death date. The proportion of missing data also differs among countries.

Methodological notes on the data for Germany:

Based on the ad-hoc evaluation "Sterbefälle – Fallzahlen nach Tagen, Wochen, Monaten, Altersgruppen und Bundesländern für Deutschland 2016 bis 2020" (Deaths – Number of cases by day, week, month, age group and Land for Germany, 2016 to 2020), users can carry out their own evaluations of how death figures developed over the year. First provisional data are provided for 2019 and 2020. Accordingly, the average of the years 2016 to 2019 contains both final and provisional data. The provisional data are mere counts of the cases of death reported by the registrar's offices; the usual data plausibility and completeness checks have not been carried out. Data refer to the death date, not the date on which a death was registered.

Due to legal regulations concerning the reporting of deaths to the registrar’s offices and differences in the reporting behaviour between registrar’s offices and official statistics, up-to-date information on the number of deaths can be provided with a delay of about four weeks. The first results for 2020 may yet increase slightly on account of late reporting. As of now, the ad-hoc evaluation will be updated every week. A new release with updated case numbers and first data for Week 16 (13 to 19 April 2020) will be available on 15 May 2020.

For more information on the ad-hoc evaluation of day-to-day mortality figures please refer to the theme page “Deaths, life expectancy“ and the “Corona statistics“ webpage of the Federal Statistical Office.

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