The first set of data on deaths in Ontario during the Covid-19 outbreak indicates that Canada’s most populous province joined the other large provinces in suffering elevated death rates during the pandemic.
In a new report, Statistics Canada finds “signs of excess mortality” in Ontario.
Last month, StatsCan published data that detailed death rates in early 2020 that didn’t include Ontario. Today, it reported that, while the data from Ontario isn’t yet fully complete, “there are early indications of excess mortality in mid-April.”
The report defined excess mortality as a higher number of weekly deaths compared with the same period for the past five years.
The finding that Ontario has seen excess mortality is to be expected, StatsCan said, given that Ontario has reported the second-highest total of deaths due to Covid-19, trailing only Québec.
Of course, deaths directly caused by Covid-19 aren’t the only effect of the pandemic. Other mortality impacts are also possible, such as increased deaths due to delays in needed medical procedures, or people being reluctant to seek treatment during the pandemic.
At the same time, lockdowns may reduce deaths from causes such as workplace accidents and car crashes that are affected by the shift to remote working.
Alongside Ontario, StatsCan also reported various degrees of excess mortality in British Columbia, Alberta and Québec, looking at the weeks since Covid-19 was officially declared a pandemic.
“Excess mortality was observed for both sexes and appears to disproportionately affect those over the age of 85,” the agency said in its release.
For B.C., StatsCan reported excess mortality for a six-week period starting in mid-March: “By the beginning of May, the number of observed deaths had declined to similar numbers from previous years,” it said.
Conversely, StatsCan found that excess mortality peaked in early May in Québec, with that region recording higher death rates for the 10 straight weeks that starting at the end of March, it said.
“Over that period, there were 3,384 more deaths in 2020 than in any of the previous five years,” StatsCan noted. Over the same period, Québec reported 4,435 deaths attributed to Covid-19.
In Alberta, the number of deaths was elevated in March, April and May.
“From the last week of February to the end of May, with the exception of two weeks, the weekly number of deaths in Alberta was above the figures for each of the previous five years,” StatsCan said.
In the other reporting provinces and territories — Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut — “there was no clear evidence of excess mortality over the same period,” StatsCan said.
There’s no data for the Yukon.