has the severity of the epidemic in France been overestimated?

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France is approaching the 100,000 death mark due to the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus, making it one of the countries with the most deaths per capita. However, a study recent believes that if we consider the actual excess mortality, our country is well below the average.

France, not such a bad student?

With over 97,000 official deaths linked to Covid-19, France ranks eighth in the ranking of the most impacted countries. In proportion, our country has more than 1,400 deaths per million inhabitants against around 900 for Germany and 750 for Greece. Is France’s anti-Covid-19 strategy so ineffective? According to a study published by France Strategy on March 28, 2021, that would not be the case. This work compared the actual excess mortality between 2016-2017 and 2019-2020. However, the results show that many countries underestimate their number of deaths.

Study authors explain that the official Covid-19 death toll is far from reality in some countries. The death tolls attributed to Covid-19 are almost half the excess mortality observed during the first year of the pandemic. Based on the comparison of excess mortality (observed and expected deaths), the researchers claim that Europe is the second least affected region in the world after the Far East. In addition, France would be much less affected than the European average.

For the purposes of the study, officials reviewed excess mortality in more than 65 countries. However, the latter group together approximately 70% of Covid-19 deaths (WHO figures). Scientists in the study indicate that Latin America is the most affected in the world with an excess mortality of 51.6% on average. Next come the Near and Middle East with an average of 26.5% as well as North America with 23.2%.

Credits: France Strategy

Reasons lacking relevance

The European average stands at 17.8% and that of France at 13.6%. This finding seems quite surprising, especially since our country has a rather elderly population, and therefore more at risk. For Julien Rousselon, the author of the study, the mention of certain factors to explain these differences would be irrelevant. There may have been a question of a false sense of security causing a disempowerment of the population in Germany (number of beds available) and Slovakia (large-scale tests).

In the case of the least affected countries such as Canada or Israel, it is more a question of low border permeability or certain geographic specificities (eg: insularity). In addition, other countries have certainly played down the epidemic for political reasons. However, some states have been faced with lack of administrative resources and / or statistics that cause poor estimates of numbers.

Like many studies, that of France Strategy also has its limits. Indeed, excess mortality is not only the result of Covid-19. It may have a link with congestion of the health system and the psychological consequences resulting in lower chances of survival for other patients. However, a decrease in mortality was also observed in connection with reduction in the number of accidents. There is also a lower incidence of other communicable diseases.

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