Analysis. Italy has been hammered by the coronavirus this year, with more deaths in 2020 than at any point since the height of World War II.

For COVID lethality, Italy is third in the world

Italy is third in the world in terms of the lethality rate for those infected by COVID-19 (3.5%), behind Iran (4.7%) and Mexico (9%). We are only one place higher than the United Kingdom, which stands at 3.4%, followed by Indonesia (3%) and Spain (2.7%). The data was published on Sunday by Johns Hopkins University on its website.

If we calculate the number of deaths from COVID-19 compared to the number of inhabitants of the major countries, then Italy climbs up to the unenvied position of first in the world. In Italy, there have been 112.35 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Next are Spain (104.71), the United Kingdom (100.23) and the United States (95.85). According to data collected by Johns Hopkins, worldwide deaths from the coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon were at 1,677,957 out of 75,819,239 confirmed cases (but the number is being constantly updated).

In absolute numbers, first place in terms of deaths is taken by the United States with 313,764, followed by Brazil with 185,650, India with 145,136 and Mexico with 117,249 deaths. In the U.S., 249,709 new cases of coronavirus were recorded on Sunday, a record for the country in a single day.

In all Europe, the victims of the virus have numbered more than 500,000, with 67,894 only in Italy. Just behind is the United Kingdom with 66,640 and France with 60,345. According to the analysis carried out by Johns Hopkins University, confirmed by other institutions such as Worldometers and the WHO, among the 20 countries most affected by the virus in terms of number of infections, Italy is the one with the highest rate of deaths in relation to the population. However, if we also take into account the smaller countries, which have fewer infections in absolute terms, then Belgium ranks first in terms of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, while Italy ranks fourth after Peru and San Marino.

Italy has recorded 112.35 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants due to COVID, followed by Spain with 104.71, the United Kingdom with 100.23 and the U.S. with 95.85. Further behind, we find France (90.08), and, much further, Germany (31.06). But if the ranking also includes the less affected countries in absolute terms, Belgium jumps to first place, with a rate of 160.84, followed by San Marino (159.83) and Peru (115.22).

The pandemic will also have a heavy impact in demographic terms: ISTAT has calculated that in Italy, the total number of deaths from all causes in 2020 will reach at least 700,000 deaths, an unprecedented level since 1944, at the height of World War II. Two months ago, Germany also highlighted that, for the first time in 10 years, its population was declining. In the United States, the number of deaths from COVID-19 is already higher than that of fallen soldiers during World War II (291,000). The Lancet has published a French study showing that the mortality rate from COVID-19 (calculated as the ratio between dead and infected) is quite low compared to other major epidemics of the past, but is three times that of the seasonal flu.

However, all the major institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, point out in their studies that the factors determining the differences between countries are, in part, difficult to pinpoint. The criteria by which a death is or is not attributed to the virus may vary. In some countries, people with other life-threatening diseases are not considered to have died from COVID-19, as is the case in Germany. Again, the mortality rate of COVID patients rises with age, and the Italian population is among the oldest in the world.

Then, an important factor is the ability of the health system to withstand the pandemic wave: the less well equipped it is, the higher the mortality rate. Finally, there are countries whose data is not considered reliable, due to the backwardness of bureaucratic and healthcare structures, or even for political reasons. In Brazil and India, for example, populous countries with major non-urban spaces, the pandemic numbers are thought to be significantly underestimated.

As the physicist Giorgio Sestili explained on Sunday, commenting on the report from Johns Hopkins University, mortality is measured as the number of deaths that tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus in relation to the population, and should be distinguished from lethality, which is the number of dead that tested positive for the virus against the total number of positive cases recorded: “This is a necessary distinction to correctly interpret the data, seeing that some newspapers have claimed Italy was the first in the world due to mortality from COVID. Even if it’s not valid to consider San Marino in that ranking, a state of 33,964 inhabitants with only 55 deaths, one certainly cannot fail to include Belgium, which has a population of over 11 million inhabitants.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!