EU excess deaths in November hit highest in a year - Eurostat

People from a funeral home and from Bucharest University Hospital morgue, all wearing personal protective equipment, prepare a COVID-19 victim for transport to a cemetery in Bucharest
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(Reuters) - Around 27% more people died in the European Union than usual during November, the biggest increase in a year as a fresh wave of COVID-19 swept the region, official data showed on Friday.

Excess mortality - the increase in total number of deaths, from any cause, compared with the same time in previous years - continued to vary across member states, EU statistics office Eurostat said.

Bulgaria and Romania saw the highest rates in November, the last month for which data for all 27 EU member states is available, with excess mortality at 88% and 84% respectively, while Italy saw 4% more deaths.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened in eastern Europe since September, with Bulgaria hitting record numbers of daily cases in recent weeks, fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Only about 30% of Bulgarians are fully vaccinated, the lowest proportion in the EU, while Romania is the bloc's second-least vaccinated state, with about 40% of the population fully vaccinated.

Sweden, which shunned strict lockdowns during the health crisis, was the only country Eurostat covered that did not see a rise in excess deaths in November. It saw a decline of 0.5%.

The highest level of excess deaths in the EU since the pandemic began was in November 2020, when the figure was 40%.

While big jumps in excess mortality largely coincide with COVID-19 outbreaks, Eurostat does not break down the numbers according to the cause of death, gender or age.

(Reporting by Juliette Portala; Editing by Milla Nissi and Mark Potter)

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