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MILAN: Italy has recorded some 178,000 excess deaths, mostly attributable to COVID-19, during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Statistics Office (ISTAT) and National Health Institute (ISS) said in a report on Wednesday.

The excess death figure, measured to the end of January 2022, calculates the difference between the total deaths from all causes since the start of the pandemic and the expected trend based on the 2015-2019 average.

Some 145,334 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 infections, 53% of which occurred in 2020, 41% in 2021 and the remainder in the first month of this year.

Around 82% of deaths in 2021 occurred in the first four months of the year when vaccination coverage was still very low, the report said.

"As the vaccination campaign progressed, mortality decreased significantly from week 20 onwards last year," it said.

People who died in nursing homes or in their own homes in early 2020 were not being tested for COVID, so the coronavirus could be directly responsible for more of the excess deaths.

Italy reports 57,890 coronavirus cases on Thursday, 320 deaths

Italy has recorded the second highest number of COVID-related deaths in Europe after Britain.

In 2020, the total number of deaths from all causes was the highest recorded in Italy since World War Two - 746,146, over 100,000 more than the 2015-2019 average.

In 2021, total deaths declined 5% on the previous year.

Looking at age groups, the largest increase was in the over-80s, which accounted for 72% of overall excess mortality, while the rise in the 65-79 age group accounted for 21%.

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