Belgian COVID-19 Mortality, Excess Deaths, Number of Deaths per Million, and Infection Fatality Rates (8 March – 9 May 2020)
Belgium has virtually no discrepancy between COVID-19 reported mortality (confirmed and possible cases) and excess mortality. There is a sharp excess death peak over the study period; the total number of excess deaths makes April 2020 the deadliest month of April since WWII, with excess deaths far larger than in early 2017 or 2018, even though influenza-induced January 1951 and February 1960 number of excess deaths were similar in magnitude. Using various sero-prevalence estimates, infection fatality rates (IFRs; fraction of deaths among infected cases) are estimated at 0.38 - 0.73% for males and 0.20 – 0.39% for females in the non-nursing home population (non-NHP), and at 0.79 – 1.52% for males and 0.88 – 1.31% for females in the entire population. Estimates for the NHP range from 38 to 73% for males and over 22 to 37% for females. The IFRs rise from nearly 0% under 45 years, to 4.3% and 13.2% for males in the non-NHP and the general population, respectively, and to 1.5% and 11.1% for females in the non-NHP and general population, respectively. The IFR and number of deaths per million is strongly influenced by extensive reporting and the fact that 66.0% of the deaths concerned NH residents. At 764 (our re-estimation of the figure 735, presented by “Our World in Data”), the number of COVID-19 deaths per million led the international ranking on May 9, 2020, but drops to 262 in the non-NHP. The NHP is very specific: age-related increased risk; highly prevalent comorbidities that, while non-fatal in themselves, exacerbate COVID-19; larger collective households that share inadvertent vectors such as caregivers and favor clustered outbreaks; initial lack of protective equipment, etc. High-quality health care countries have a relatively older but also more frail population, which is likely to contribute to this result.