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Was there a COVID-19 harvesting effect in Northern Italy?

Augusto Cerqua (), Roberta Di Stefano, Marco Letta and Sara Miccoli

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Abstract: We investigate the possibility of a harvesting effect, i.e. a temporary forward shift in mortality, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by looking at the excess mortality trends of an area that registered one of the highest death tolls in the world during the first wave, Northern Italy. We do not find any evidence of a sizable COVID-19 harvesting effect, neither in the summer months after the slowdown of the first wave nor at the beginning of the second wave. According to our estimates, only a minor share of the total excess deaths detected in Northern Italian municipalities over the entire period under scrutiny (February - November 2020) can be attributed to an anticipatory role of COVID-19. A slightly higher share is detected for the most severely affected areas (the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia, in particular), but even in these territories, the harvesting effect can only account for less than 20% of excess deaths. Furthermore, the lower mortality rates observed in these areas at the beginning of the second wave may be due to several factors other than a harvesting effect, including behavioral change and some degree of temporary herd immunity. The very limited presence of short-run mortality displacement restates the case for containment policies aimed at minimizing the health impacts of the pandemic.

Date: 2021-03, Revised 2021-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur and nep-hea
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