Australian Excess Deaths
Australia is seeimg significant excess mortality, and it's not all down to COVID.
Early lockdowns and strict border measures meant Australia was largely covid-free until the end of 2021. As global cases rose, deaths increased, and restrictions were imposed, most Australians led near-normal lives. But as borders reopened, the covid case rate took off. With over 10 million cases, Australia currently has a higher case rate than the UK.
The New York Times reported how Australia saved thousands of lives while covid killed a million Americans. So surely these closures were worth it? With this in mind, we looked at the Australian stats on all-cause mortality.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides provisional death data on all causes and leading causes of death and changes associated with covid. Reports are released once the majority of deaths have been registered and reported.
The critical ABS results report:
From June 2021 to May 2022, there were 16,467 more deaths than normal in Australia;
5,619 of these were attributed to covid, and 10,848 were not explained and weren't covid.
The ABS also tracks the number of deaths against historical averages.
In May, 16,124 deaths occurred: 1,922 (13.5%) above the historical average.
In 2022, 75,593 deaths occurred by 31 May: 10,757 deaths (16.6%), more than the average.
Deaths due to dementia were 20.5 percent above the average for the year to May; cancer was 6 percent above, and diabetes was 20 percent higher.
So how does Australia record a COVID death?
The Director of the Mortality Data Centre, Lauren Moran, of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, confirmed in an email response to one of our collaborators that ‘the ABS does not code any death within 28 days of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test as a death due to COVID-19.’
The conditions are taken from the death certificate. Death due to COVID-19 is defined as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID disease (e.g. trauma). Also, there should be no period of complete recovery from COVID-19 between illness and death.
What does this mean
More than 80% of Australia’s total Covid deaths happened in 2022, and the proportion who have died with Covid - rather than due to - is rising.
We may quibble about the exact number of excess deaths, but there is no doubt that Australia has significant excess, not due to COVID (for every covid death, there are two unexplained non-covid deaths). The precise driver of the increase is unclear. But rises in dementia deaths point to a relaxing of care or downright abandonment. The increase in diabetes mortality suggests routine evidence-based care has been deserted.
The COVID and excess deaths diverge completely after early 2022, as the figure shows. Australia has the same problem as Europe, but is anyone taking notice?
To all those journos out there, making comparisons amid the pandemic is unwise. It infers that one country's strategy is better than another - it isn’t. And as we have learnt - it isn't over until it's over.
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