WorldFewer deaths in 2020 than in 2019? Beware...

Fewer deaths in 2020 than in 2019? Beware of these misinterpreted figures


A morgue worker disinfects a coffin containing the body of a person who died of COVID-19 ahead of a funeral at Memora Mortuary in Girona, Spain, Thursday, February 4, 2021. – Emilio Morenatti / AP / SIPA

  • According to the Spanish Ministry of Health, there were fewer deaths last year than in 2019. This is what a viral publication claims.
  • If these figures are from the website of the ministry, they are however provisional.
  • There is a time lag for the registration of deaths, explains the organization.

The same controversy has already arisen wrongly in France. This time, it is Spain’s turn to be affected by intoxication on the numbers of deaths linked to Covid-19. Several publications on social networks claim that the country experienced 17,000 fewer deaths in 2020 compared to 2019.

For this, they are based on data published on the website of the Spanish Ministry of Health. According to these figures from the National Mortality Index (INM), dated January 22, 2021, 401,359 people died in Spain in 2020, compared to 418,574 in 2019.


As stated in the document, the death toll is recorded with a time lag. “Although the data is updated monthly, not all deaths that occur in a given month can be integrated into the following month; some are later, ”says the document. In addition, these figures, although relayed on the website of the ministry, are not “official”.

As stated in the document, there is a lag in updating the data.
As stated in the document, there is a lag in updating the data. – Screenshot of the Spanish Ministry of Health

This gap was already observed in previous years. Thus, the total counting of deaths for 2019 has evolved as the monthly reports were published, increasing by more than 75,000 between January 2020 and January 2021: in January 2020, the INM counted 343,129 deaths for 2019, one month later the tally increased to 394,304. In March 2020, the INE recorded 410,932 deaths, to finally indicate 418,574 in the last available report.

In Spain, the official death toll is published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) and the MoMo system, managed by the Carlos III Health Institute, a research institute attached to the Ministry of Science.

In 2020, as our Spanish colleagues from Newtral recall, the MoMo system recorded excess deaths: 44,573 from March 10 to May 9, 4,723 from July 20 to August 29, 21,544 from September 1 to December 25, i.e. 70,840 for these periods.

However, the cause of these deaths is not specified. According to a report from the Ministry of Health dated February 5, Spain deplores 61,386 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.



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