Over the last ten years, the number of people dead in Latvia has been quite stable: between 28,000 and 29,000 people per year. And also in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic reached Latvia, there was no big increase in the number of dead: 28 854 dead were registered in Latvia in 2020. Last year it increased by around 18% and exceeded 34,000.
The number of deaths registered in Latvia from 2010 to 2021. Data of the CSB. Data for 2021 are provisional information to be updated
Official statistics for all 12 months have not yet been fully compiled, but the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB) publishes weekly data on the number of dead in Latvia.
CSB data show that last year the largest mortality rate was between October 18 and November 21 (weeks 42 to 46), when 4,453 people, or nearly 900 people per week, died in five weeks. At that time, in order to reduce the distribution of Covid-19, the Latvian government introduced a lockdown lasting from 21 October to 15 November.
These are preliminary data, and the number of deaths officially registered may vary slightly. The Disease Prevention and Control Center (SPKC) has currently compiled data on the 11 months of last year during which 31 063 people have died in Latvia.
The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the increase in mortality. According to data from the SPKC, in 2020, Covid-19 was recorded as a cause of death in 700 deaths.
It should be noted that the Covid-19 pandemic reached Latvia only in March 2020, the first deceased was registered in April, and for the first half, both the morbidity and mortality with Covid-19 were relatively minor.
According to data from the SPKC, 18 people died with Covid-19 between April and early October 2020 (currently that number of deaths with Covid-19 is often recorded in one day).
However, in autumn 2020, the incidence and mortality with Covid-19 increased rapidly; in 2021 more than 4,000 people died with Covid-19.
"3,965 deaths were recorded in 11 months of 2021, where Covid-19 is the root cause of death. Mathematically, this would also be the reason for the increase in mortality, but it should be noted that some of the people who died with the root cause of death in Covid-19 are likely to have died with some other root cause of death, and therefore it cannot be unambiguously stated that only Covid-19, as the root cause of death, has caused this increase,” said SPKC spokeswoman Ilze Arāja.
Infection expert Uga Dumpis said that mortality data of various countries regarding Covid-19 is not comparable due to the different levels of testing and the characteristics of registration.
Dumpis pointed to statistics compiled by The Economist on additional mortality in the world. According to these data, during the 14 months from 19 October 2020 to 19 December 2021 4,400 people died in Latvia with Covid-19, while the additional mortality rate was higher: 7,560 dead.
“The analysis of mortality data from eleven months of 2021 compared to the previous year (2015-2020) shows that mortality rates from cardiovascular and endocrine diseases, psychological and behavioral disorders, and digestive system diseases have increased slightly, while mortality from tumors and external causes of death has decreased,” explained SPKC spokeswoman Arāja.
“In order to assess the effects of the pandemic on mortality, an in-depth analysis of data and studies should be carried out that take into account the various factors affecting mortality rates.”
“Of course, mortality is also reinforced by the inability of people to receive adequate health services, but it is also most closely linked to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Uga Dumpis.
Baiba Zukula, director of the social statistics department of the CSB, said that aging populations also affect mortality rates. The proportion of older people will be reduced in Latvian society.
“At the beginning of 2021, 15% of Latvia's population was over the age of 70. Consequently, the increase in mortality rates was expected, but not to the extent,” said Zukula.
Among the dead with Covid-19, most are people aged over 70. According to SPKC dat, 3,367 or 71% of those dead with Covid-19 were aged over 70 years.
Similar trends in mortality growth occurred in Estonia last year. Over the past decade, the number of deaths in Estonia had fluctuated between 15,000 and 16,000 per year (there are 1.33 million inhabitants in Estonia). However, last year there was a rapid increase in mortality: 18,445 people died in Estonia in 2021, or 2,724 more than in 2020.
The Estonian statisticians explained this with both the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the aging population, as well as the heatwave seen in our region in summer 2021.
Experts say it is very difficult to predict at this time what mortality trends will be in 2022, as this will depend on many variable factors. Optimists predict coronavirus will no longer be so dangerous and Covid-19 will gradually become an influenza-like disease that can be controlled without radical restrictions. However, there are also negative scenarios for the continuation of the pandemic and for high mortality.