How severe was the pandemic in Europe?

The pandemic is over. Omicron has joined other endemic coronaviruses and is flu-like at most. So how severe was the pandemic in Europe? Do you care to know the truth?

Let’s go back by a time machine.

Suppose someone told you back in February 2020 that Europe is about to be hit by a two-year long viral epidemic; that you would have no control over the epidemic waves; and that the following will happen:

In the first year, excess mortality will be somewhat higher than in a year with severe flu.

In the second year, excess mortality will be about twice as high as in a year with severe flu.

TLDR?

You have just read the combined data from about 25 countries in Europe.

No, Europe did not experience another Spanish Flu. It was not 100% excess mortality by the summer of 2020 (predicted by reckless models.) It was not doomsday, or an existential threat to society. Not even close.

And if the name of the virus were “influenza”, no media outlet would have counted cases and deaths on a daily basis. You would not have been locked down, masked-up, and forced to take experimental vaccines with short-lived benefits and unacceptable rates of severe side-effects and fatality.

Yes, they have made colossal mistakes. No rhetoric can mask it.

Now, let’s see the data.

“Flu year”

My life follows two calendars: the Gregorian calendar and the Jewish calendar. Neither was developed for epidemiological purposes, but the former is not suitable for studying mortality in the northern hemisphere. Mortality rates begin to increase in the fall, and December 31st is an arbitrary cutoff date during winter. There is no logic in combining the mortality in parts of different winters — some of which are harsher than others. Nor do the winter mortality waves have a fixed distribution on the calendar.

The Gregorian year is suitable for taxes, accounting, and the like — not for studying trends in mortality. We should count 12 months that contain a full winter and a full summer. (There are heat waves, which might lead to summer mortality waves.)

The Jewish calendar happens to address the problem, as a new year begins some time in September. (The date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year.) Our databases, however, have not been based on the Jewish calendar.

What’s the solution?

Flu-based calendar. The flu season is typically counted from week 40 on the Gregorian calendar, which is around the beginning of October. A “flu year” is a 12-month period that contains both one full winter and one full summer. No arbitrary cutoff in winter. Any argument against a “flu year”?

EuroMOMO

The EuroMOMO website provides data on all-cause excess mortality in about 25 European countries. Click here and you can see graphs of weekly or cumulative excess deaths — by the Gregorian calendar. The data can be downloaded and the graphs can be recreated by “flu years”: week 40 through week 39.

Which I did.

Source: EuroMOMO (euromomo.eu) 2022; accessed, September 13, 2022

Four flu years are shown on the graph above:

2017–18 (yellow) contained a severe flu season in Europe. You can read about it here. It is therefore a suitable reference for the pandemic years.

2018–19 (green) followed next, with much lower excess mortality. That was the pre-pandemic flu year. In one particular country, called Sweden, there was actually significant “mortality deficit”.

2019–20 (purple) was the first pandemic year. The models that shut down the world predicted 100% excess mortality by September 2020. Actual excess mortality was moderately higher than in our reference year (2017–18), and that excess included panic deaths.

2020–21 (red) was the second pandemic year. Covid replaced flu in the winter of 2020–21, resulting in about twice as high excess mortality, compared to 2017–2018. A harsh flu year? Yes, very harsh. Apocalyptic year? No.

Excess mortality: the numbers

The numbers behind the graphs are shown in the Table. The rightmost column shows excess deaths in each flu year relative to 2017–2018 (our reference year).

The first pandemic year was 35% more severe than 2017–2018, but this is an overestimate of the true death toll of the virus. Panic, lockdown, and fearmongering took their toll, too. In the US they accounted for at least 15% of the excess mortality. Notice, also, low excess mortality in the pre-pandemic year. Part of the excess in 2019–20 might have “balanced” a previous, mild flu season.

The second pandemic year was about twice as severe as 2017–18 and this estimate includes the continued effects of panic. Not ten times more severe, not five times, not three times. Twice as severe.

Summary measures — across age, gender, race, countries — are what we often compute in epidemiology. There is always a distribution around the summary: Some countries fared better; others worse. But the summary is still informative. The apocalyptic predictions that shut down the world did not materialize anywhere.

The current flu year (2021–22)

The headlines are no longer reporting on excess mortality, but the current flu year in Europe appears to be nearly as severe as the second pandemic year (graph through week 35). Why?

Source: EuroMOMO (euromomo.eu) 2022; accessed, September 13, 2022

It is not simple to partition the excess into its causes, but Covid is only one part of the story. In the set of graphs below, I tried to show possible main contributors at different times during the current flu year. There may be others.

Sources: WHO, EuroMOMO, OWID

But now people are not interested in counting deaths anymore. They are worried about the rising cost of living and record-high inflation. What are the causes? How many people know that they are paying for colossal mistakes? For false apocalyptic predictions? For futile “mitigation”?

Contemporary society is fully brainwashed. As always, the truth will reveal itself in history books.

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Professor Emeritus of Public Health (University of Arizona); MD (Tel-Aviv University, Israel); MPH, Epidemiology (University of Minnesota)

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Eyal Shahar

Professor Emeritus of Public Health (University of Arizona); MD (Tel-Aviv University, Israel); MPH, Epidemiology (University of Minnesota)