Malta last year registered the highest number of deaths in five years, with a steep rise in the mortality rate recorded throughout the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figures published by the EU’s statistics body, Eurostat, showed that the percentage of additional deaths, compared to the pre-pandemic years of 2016 to 2019, was significantly higher in 2021 than in 2020.

The statistics only refer to the total number of deaths and do not give any specific cause.

In March last year, more than 32 per cent additional deaths over the pre-pandemic period were registered. In 2020, the same figure had stood at 16.7 per cent.

Similarly, in August last year, there were 26.8 more deaths than in the period between 2016 and 2019. In August 2020, the excess mortality rate had stood at 13 per cent.

Despite the increases throughout the year, the situation seems to have improved in the last four months of 2021.

While, in 2020, the last quarter of the year had seen the most deaths, the rate started dropping significantly in the following year.

In December, the rate stood at 18.8 per cent, notably lower than that for the same month in 2020, when additional deaths had shot up to over 40 per cent.

Health sources said the additional deaths clearly reflected the increase in COVID-related spikes.

Both in March and August, the number of cases in the community had peaked and, in turn, resulted in more COVID deaths.

The last quarter of the year also coincided with the roll-out of the booster.

The sources also noted that, as was the case in 2020, the pandemic had resulted in additional deaths that, though not caused by the virus infection, were still an indirect result of the impact of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, compared to the EU average, Malta’s excess mortality rates were higher throughout the first eight months of the year. But while the island’s rate started dropping in September, the EU’s continued to climb.

Since the start of the pandemic, Malta has registered a total of 688 deaths although the health authorities are now insisting that the vaccines have played a major part in slashing mortality rates.

According to public health chief Charmaine Gauci, only 51 per cent of COVID-19 deaths were directly caused by the virus in April, down from 76 per cent previously.

“This is clearly due to the vaccine. We are moving towards the phase where people can make their own risk assessments while also protecting the most vulnerable,” she said on Friday as the government announced it would be lifting most of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions come May 2.

196 new cases

Another 196 new COVID-19 cases were registered yesterday, with data also showing that one person died overnight while virus-positive .

No data about the latest victim was made available.

The number of known active virus cases in the country now stands at 4,865.

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