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Portugal: controversy over excess mortality rise

Portugal is debating Eurostat data on excess mortality in the EU zone, released on August 17. According to the leading European statistical bureau, in June, the excess mortality rate in the country was 23.9%, nearly four times higher than the European average of 6.2%. For the fifth consecutive month, Portugal leads the ranking (Spain is second with 16.7%). In the rest of Europe, in fact, the percentage of additional deaths compared to the average mortality rate registered until the explosion of the Covid-19 pandemic is in a decreasing phase, while it has increased in Portugal for the fifth consecutive month.

According to the latest Eurostat data referred to June 2022, the excess mortality rate in the EU dropped to 6.2% compared to 7% in May and 11.2% in April. The previous most significant peak was registered in November 2021 (up 27%), during the fourth excess mortality wave since March 2020. The substantial increase of excess mortality coincides in great part with the Covid-19 epidemic, even if the indicator does not discriminate between the causes of death and does not identify differences between gender or age.

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In Portugal, the rate jumped to 23.9% in June from 19.2% in May and 12.5% in April. The figures caused controversy in the country. Part of the scientific community urged to crosscheck data before giving in to alarm. Mathematician Carlos Antunes from the University of Lisbon, for example, in statements to the Lusa news agency recalled that the mortality in Portugal has gradually increased since 2009 due to the population’s aging.

Inevitably, however, the finger was pointed by many (starting from the world of politics, with the far-right party Chega, which presented a parliamentary interrogation) against the inefficiency of the national healthcare system, which often made headlines this summer due to ERs that were closed due to lack of personnel. Another issue discussed was the energy poverty of the Portuguese given that deaths have increased with peaks in heat and cold weather.

Portugal is one of the countries with the highest rate of vaccinated population in Europe, or 87.33% according to data from the Johns Hopkins University. In Spain, 86.88% of the population is vaccinated.

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