Simply Out of Date

Setting the record straight.

Anthony B. Masters
3 min readJun 6, 2020


The ‘Scientists for EU’ Facebook page posted a graph of excess deaths. This graph showed a measure of excess deaths in 19 countries. It claimed: “And this is where we now are.”

The graph had no source or links. At the shared time, the graph was already out of date. Statistical agencies will continue to publish mortality statistics. As a result, such comparisons are provisional and changeable.

A cold trail

The graph compared excess deaths per million people “during Covid outbreaks”. Facebook users shared this graph over 3,600 times. The ‘Scientists for EU’ post commented:

And this is where we now are.

The graph contains no links or sources. The image itself appears to mimic a Financial Times data visualisation. Since the initial publication:

Spain made a revision to its mortality estimates, adding 12,000 to its toll of excess deaths from coronavirus in a one-off adjustment to 43,000.

‘Spain’ appears to refer to the Mortality Monitoring System. The Carlos III Health Institute runs this system.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística — Spain’s statistical office — is less timely. Their latest provisional death figures are for the first half of 2019.

Some countries do not publish recent statistics, or make those figures hard to find. John Burn-Murdoch (Financial Times) shows the difficulty in getting Italian stats:

On 28th May, the Financial Times graph was:

The UK has a relatively high number of excess deaths. (Image: Financial Times)

The statistics are after the Spanish update, but before the latest ONS report.

What are excess deaths?



Anthony B. Masters

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.