Coronavirus Hasn’t Increased Overall Death Rate in Israel So Far, Figures Show

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Medical staff at a coronavirus unit in Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer, July 2020.
Medical staff at a coronavirus unit in Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer, July 2020. Credit: Emil Salman

Israel has not had an excess rate of mortality since the start of the year, reports by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) show.

The number of Israelis who have died in recent months while the world is confronting a coronavirus pandemic have not been significantly different than the figure for the same period in previous years. The data was published without any analysis of the reasons for the deaths that did occur, and it is early to draw any conclusions regarding the significance of these findings. As of Thursday, 643 people have died in Israel of the virus.

The first Israeli victim of the coronavirus was a Holocaust survivor, Aryeh Even, 88, who died in March. That same month 4,169 people died in Israel, 147 fewer than in March 2019. The CBS figures are updated through July, when 3,143 Israelis died, 297 of them due to COVID-19. In July 2019, 3,433 Israelis died.

A summary of Israeli deaths from March through July shows a similar trend, even slightly lower compared to last year. The figures show that 18,476 Israelis died during this period, 211 fewer than during the same period in 2019. In other words, from the standpoint of dry figures, before any analysis or explanations, the coronavirus did not adversely affect Israel’s mortality figures.

But not only did the coronavirus not have any adverse effect on these figures, the figures actually dropped despite coronavirus deaths.

Still, these statistics bureau reports do not analyze the causes of death. The bureau says it will take a few months until such data becomes available. The reason is the difficulty in determining the cause of death right away in some cases – and the fact that sometimes the cause of death changes after additional data is gathered that may not have been available beforehand.

A comparison with mortality figures from 2019 alone could be misleading because last year is considered to have been an extraordinary year with a relatively high mortality rate compared to other recent years. In some cases the differential is 1,500 or higher than in other years. In March through July of 2018, 17,867 people died, 609 fewer than in the same period for 2020. Based on this figure, it could turn out to be that the coronavirus can indeed be linked to a rise in mortality.

Professor Nadav Davidovitch, a physician and director at the public health school of Ben-Gurion University, confirmed the data to Haaretz. “Israel is one of the countries that until now seems not to have an extraordinary mortality rate, compared to other countries,” he said.

Data in many countries show clearly that the coronavirus has had an exacerbating effect on mortality there. In Peru, deaths have soared by 149 percent. In Spain by 56 percent, Britain 45 percetn, Italy 44 percent, Belgium 40 percent, France 3 percent, U.S. 23 percent, Switzerland 26 percent, and Sweden 24 percent.

This data was published this past week by The Financial Times.

Davidovitch said that the steps taken in Israel at the outset of the pandemic, starting with the lockdown, social distancing and prevention of gatherings, onto mask-wearing and observance of rules of hygiene, “lessened infectious illness overall, with an emphasis on respiratory illnesses.” He also points to a reduction in bowel disease, which can be caused by neglect of hygiene.

In other words, the steps imposed on the population due to the coronavirus pandemic aimed at protecting people from the deadly virus also spared the lives of others who, if not for these measures, may have died of other illnesses.

Davidovitch mentions the effects that hospitals have in routine times on spreading infectious disease. He says the reduction in activity in hospitals, which for the initial months of the pandemic focused mainly on treating the coronavirus, led to a lessening of people catching other infectious illnesses at hospitals.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: