18,000 more deaths than normal since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium

During year from 1 March 2020 to 28 February 2021 127,224 people died in Belgium. This is 18,000 more than during an average year. While the coronavirus pandemic accounts for a large portion of the excess mortality, last summer’s heatwave also played a role in pushing up the mortality rate. 

During an average year around 110,000 people die in Belgium. This figure has remained stable for several decades now. However, last March a big gamechanger entered the field: COVID-19. 

It will come as no surprise that since the onset of the pandemic the mortality rate in Belgium has risen considerably. According to figures from the federal statistics agency Statbel, there have been 18,425 more deaths during the past 12 months than there were on average during the previous 3 years. This gives an excess mortality rate of 17%.

The interactive map above shows excess mortality in each municipality

Statistician Patrick Lusyne told VRT News that the figures are exceptional and have not been seen at this level since the Second World War. With 15,523 and 14,072 deaths respectively last April and last November had the highest monthly death tolls since Statbel started keeping records in 1919.

A small peak in deaths during August was caused by a 12-day heatwave.

Currently an average of 25 people with COVID-19 are dying each day. However, Patrick Lusyine says that there is currently no excess mortality.

"There are measures in place that in part serve to prevent other causes of death. For example, there has been no flu epidemic this year”.

Statbel says the differences in the levels of excess mortality between various municipalities appear not to be linked to population density.

For example, Sint-Joost-ten-Node (Brussels) is the most densely populated municipality in Belgium. However, its excess mortality level is the pretty much the same as in the rural Limburg municipality of Gingelom.

Prosperity doesn’t seem to have played a role either, nor does the average age of the population. Municipalities with an older population haven’t experience greater excess mortality than those with a greater number of younger people.

Particularly in municipalities with a relatively small population just a few extra deaths can result in a large percentage rise in the mortality rate. 

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