During the past hot weeks, hundreds of Dutch people have died more than usual, the CBS reports Friday. The number of deaths was about 17 percent higher compared to the weeks before the heat wave.
On the basis of provisional figures, the statistical office estimates that approximately 3,100 Dutch people died in week 33, more than 400 more than the average in the previous weeks.
The overall mortality will be higher as the heat wave lasted for almost two weeks. There was talk of a continuous period of eight days in which the temperature in De Bilt did not fall below 30 degrees, and five days with locally above 35 degrees.
It is the first mortality peak since the March and April corona epidemic, when the total number of deaths doubled for a time. In the intervening period, the mortality rate in the Netherlands was below average for weeks.
The main cause of the recent excess mortality is not the recent revival of the corona virus, but the heat, according to Statistics Netherlands explicitly. At the national GGDs, fifteen confirmed COVID-19 deaths were known in that week.
See also: Extreme summer heat in the Netherlands is increasing much faster than expected
Heat and corona mortality may be related
NU.nl spoke to CBS researcher Maarten Bloem about the higher mortality and asked him whether the waves in the number of deaths are related despite the various causes.
Bloem: "You often see that after a period of high mortality, for example a flu epidemic, a period of lower mortality first occurs. People with fragile health may have died in March and April, for example, when the corona outbreak was severe, after which in the period afterwards the mortality was slightly lower. "
Whether that damping effect will also continue to affect heat mortality is uncertain, according to Bloem. "An inverse relationship is also possible: that the heat wave creates extra mortality among COVID-19 patients because they have extra vulnerable health at the time of the heat wave."
According to Bloem, the excess mortality of about 400 people in a week with a heat wave is comparable to the magnitude of the extra mortality that we saw in previous heat waves, for example that of July last year.
However, that heat wave lasted less long - while the duration of the heat is an important factor for public health.
Heat waves are getting hotter, but awareness is also growing
Further back in time, the Netherlands regretted about a thousand victims after the heat wave of July 2006, according to Statistics Netherlands. Since then, attention has increased, and the Netherlands has official heat plans. Are heat waves getting hotter, but are heat deaths decreasing?
Bloem: "That is actually impossible. Prevention and attention can play a role: perhaps people know better how to deal with heat due to the experiences of recent heatwaves. At the same time, our living environment is changing: home insulation is increasing, as is air conditioning."
"But the excess mortality from heat waves varies from year to year anyway. In 2018 there was a long flu epidemic, and mortality during the heat wave in the summer was relatively limited. Extra people may have already died from the flu, causing the extra mortality in the summer. heatwave turned out lower. "