2021.02.11 18:09

Change in data set doubles Lithuania’s Covid-19 death toll

LRT.lt2021.02.11 18:09

On Thursday, Lithuania changed the method of calculating its coronavirus-related deaths, resulting in an almost doubling of deaths linked to the pandemic.

From Thursday, the country’s statistics office will report three different types of deaths related to Covid-19 – those who have died directly of the illness, those infected with the coronavirus who have died of other causes, and everyone who has died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.

The third and largest segment means that the country’s coronavirus-related death toll has jumped from 3,013 to 5,840.

"I would like to point out to the issue of excess deaths, which can now be considered using the new indicators," Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys told reporters on Thursday.

Critics have said that the previously reported ‘excess deaths’ may be overestimated, as more people have died from Covid-19 and not due to being denied access to health services or other issues.

Read more: Lithuania registers 13 percent more deaths in 2020 than in 2019

“Practically all excess deaths, around 6,000 according to [researcher] Audrūnas Gruslys, are due to Covid-19,” Vaidotas Zemlys-Balevičius, data scientist at Euromonitor International, wrote on Facebook.

The revised figures “clearly show that it was the [lockdown] restrictions that had an effect on the decreasing number of deaths”, he added.

Scandals surrounding Covid-19 statistics first surfaced during the first wave of the pandemic. For a number of weeks after the first infections were registered in the country, the National Public Health Centre (NVSC) – which was previously responsible for data management – was not tracking the number of people who had recovered from the novel coronavirus.

At the beginning of the second wave of the pandemic in autumn, the NVSC also reported difficulties in recording all the new cases of Covid-19.

In December, the centre also reported that it failed to take account of around 1,000 deaths from Covid-19. The country’s statistics office, Statistics Lithuania, then took over coronavirus data management.

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