Igor Yefremov, a Researcher of the International Research Department of Political Demography and Macrodynamics at the Gaidar Institute, commented on the HSE study dedicated to excess mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic. The expert’s opinion was published by a weekly magazine “Profile.”

According to HSE experts, official statistics do not reflect the real damage caused to humanity by the COVID-19 pandemic. Losses are grossly underestimated, and worldwide, by the way. Moreover, excess mortality can be caused by ordinary seasonal influenza. This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the NRU HSE together with colleagues from Germany, the UK and Norway after analyzing mortality statistics over the past 20 years.

Excess mortality is nearly always there, and not only as a result of severe epidemics, agrees Igor Yefremov. However, excess mortality in pre-COVID years may not be as high as indicated. The article uses data of a few weeks each year marked by minimal mortality to determine the baseline minimum level of excess mortality.

“This approach can be subjected to criticism. These lows may be short-term, the so-called harvesting effects (a short period of reduced mortality below the notional norm because medically fragile sick people died just before this period due to mortality surge, i.e. slightly earlier than expected) or statistical artefacts (due to failures in the state bureaucracy responsible for collecting and publishing mortality data)," explained Igor Yefremov.

The practical application of the study conclusions will therefore result in highlighting the section in the total excess mortality statistics that is due, for example, to external causes of death, which often also have a pronounced seasonality as well as excess mortality resulting from respiratory disease.

However, Igor Yefremov agrees with the recommendations to regularly use some of the anti-COVID preventive measures to reduce "normal" excess mortality (wearing masks, ventilating enclosed spaces, etc.). In his opinion, this would save thousands lives each year during seasonal epidemics of respiratory diseases.

“Ultimately, the debate on how the authorities should respond and prevent events like the COVID-19 pandemic, comes down to the value of human life appreciated by society and the state,” the researcher of the Gaidar Institute stressed.