Treating the coronavirus
Treating the coronavirusiStock

There was no significant increase in mortality rates in Israel in the first seven months of 2020 compared to previous years, according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Thursday.

This is despite the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has killed 976 Israelis to date.

The mortality rate was especially low from January through March. However, the mortality rate rose to levels similar to previous years after the pandemic struck Israel, with death rates fluctuating wildly from week to week.

A statistical calculation of excess mortality by weeks found that the excess mortality between March-July is about 300 deaths out of 19,000 deaths during that period.

From the beginning of 2020 until the end of July, 27,500 Israeli residents died. In 2019, 27,550 residents died in those months.

In these months, the gross mortality rate, which takes into account the size of the population, was slightly lower in 2020 than in 2019 - 3.0 per 1,000 compared to 3.1, respectively. Comparing the months of March-July 2020 to March-July 2019, the mortality rate was almost the same.

The CBS noted that mortality from the coronavirus in Israel is relatively low compared to many other countries. Out of about 19,000 deaths in Israel from March-July, about 570 people (about 3%) died directly from the coronavirus (according to Health Ministry data.

However, in other countries, such as England, the United States, Spain, Italy and France, significant "excess mortality" has been reported in the months since the plague broke out. In Israel, the increase in the percentage of deaths from the corona virus from the total number of deaths is noticeable, mainly in weeks 15 and 16 (April 19-6) and starting from week 28 (July 12-6) and all of July. In the last week of July, the percentage of deaths from the coronavirus out of the total deaths reached almost 10%. But is the total mortality higher than in previous years?

To answer the question of whether there is an excess mortality rate in Israel in 2020 and especially after the outbreak of the epidemic, the CBS calculated the weekly mortality rates in Israel for 2020 compared to the average of the previous five years (2019-2015), using confidence intervals of the mortality rates in those years.

All ages: From the beginning of 2020 until the end of July this year, the mortality rate was higher than expected (outside the confidence interval) during three weeks: 14, 21 and 31, all after the outbreak of the plague. In those weeks there were a total of 306 deaths above the expected average.

Week 14 (beginning March 30) was at the beginning of the first wave, and 114 more people died then than expected. That week, about 40 people died of the coronavirus, according to the Health Ministry.

During week 21 (beginning May 18) there was a heat wave which may have contributed to the excess mortality (117 more died than expected). About 10 coronavirus deaths were reported that week.

During week 31 (the last week of July) an excess of 75 deaths were recorded. 83 Israelis died from the coronavirus that week.

There have been six weeks over the course of 2020 during which the mortality rate has been lower than expected: weeks 2, 4-7, and 9. During those weeks a total of 670 fewer people died than would normally be expected. In the period after the outbreak of the pandemic, there were no weeks in which mortality was significantly lower than expected, but in most weeks it was close to or below average.

Ages 70 and up. As with all ages, there were three weeks in which mortality was significantly higher (outside the confidence interval): week 14 (beginning of the first wave), week 21 (during a heat wave) and week 31. In these weeks, 197 more people than expected died (73 died during week 14, 67 during week 21, and 57 during week 31).

In contrast, there were eleven weeks in which mortality was lower than expected. Seven of these weeks were before the coronavirus outbreak, and there were about 1,060 fewer deaths than expected during those weeks.. There were three weeks after the outbreak of the virus: week 23 (beginning June 2), week 26 (beginning June 22) and week 30 (beginning July 20). During these weeks there were 186 fewer deaths than expected. Overall it can not be said that in March-July the mortality was higher than expected for those aged 70 and over. In most weeks the mortality was even lower than average, although the difference is not significant.

A similar picture emerges when data for the 80 and above population is examined, though there is a very small number of "excess deaths" among this population. There were only two weeks in which mortality was noticeably higher than expected and six weeks in which mortality was lower than expected. All of the weeks in which mortality was in line with expectations were before the beginning of the outbreak, but even after the outbreak, in most weeks the mortality rate lined up with expectations.

The CBS concluded that until the end of July 2020 a significant excess mortality in Israel cannot be shown, despite the increase in the number of deaths from coronavirus and their rate out of the total. In the first months of the year mortality was particularly low, while it rose to levels more consistent with previous years after the onset of the coronavirus in Israel.