Covid-19 mortality higher in second wave

Ljubljana – More than eight months after the first Covid-19 fatality was recorded in Slovenia on 14 March, the number of deaths exceeded 1,000 on Saturday. While a total of 108 people died of coronavirus in the first wave, the figures have been much higher the second time round, with more than 600 people dying in November alone.

The second wave started in late summer and escalated in October, with data showing that nearly 900 people died since the start of September.

The highest weekly toll was recorded between 9 and 15 November, when 253 people died, while the highest daily number of deaths was 45, recorded on 16 November. So far, 638 people died this month.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) show that mortality per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks in Slovenia was at 12.9, putting Slovenia in place 7 among EU members. Higher mortality rates were recorded in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Lichtenstein.

But while the mortality rate for the entire population is higher in the second wave, the mortality rate for those who test positive seems to be lower.

Between 1 September and 20 November, 1.4% of those who tested positive died, while in the first wave 108 people died out of a total of fewer than 1,500 who tested positive, putting the mortality rate among those infected at 7.3%.

Mortality rates are also lower among patients requiring intensive treatment. The head of intensive therapy at the infections clinic of the Ljubljana UKC hospital, Matjaž Jereb, said a week ago that the mortality rate of ICU patients was currently at about 15%, compared to 30% in the first wave.

He said it was impossible to predict the outcome for any of the patients requiring intensive care, and also warned against comparisons of Covid-19 with the flu.

Mortality estimates for Covid-19 and the flu vary, he said, but it is indisputable that mortality in Covid-19 patients is at least ten times as high as in flu. The number of patients requiring intensive care is also ten times higher than in flu.

Jereb told the STA that Covid-19 patients died due to organ failure that developed in addition to severely affected lungs. Most die following pulmonary embolism complications, with lung failure due to pneumonia the second most common cause.

In younger patients the cause of death is usually complications from underlying chronic diseases, especially heart disease.

Most of the fatalities in Slovenia were people over the age of 85, as mortality increases with age. The youngest fatality in Slovenia was a patient aged between 35 and 44, who died in October.

In the first wave, 80% of those who died (87 people) were nursing home residents. Preliminary data from the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) show that 471 nursing home residents have died so far in the second wave, with total deaths in this wave nearing 900.

The Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), a top research facility, has projected that at least another 400 people will die in the second wave.

In case that restrictions fail to show effect and reproduction number remained at around one, Slovenia can expect to see the death tally to reach 2,500 by the end of the year, says IJS. If, however, reproduction number drops to 0.5, 2,000 people are projected to die by the end of January.