By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) – In April, an elderly resident of Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest town in France on the edge of Paris, went to the hospital, worried about having COVID-19. The test came back negative and the retiree was sent home. Ten days later, they were found dead.
For the moment, the death does not appear in the official COVID-19 report, which only concerns people who died in hospitals and nursing homes.
But data from the INSEE statistics office shows a national increase in home deaths. The increase is particularly pronounced in certain low-income suburbs in central Paris.
“It is clear that COVID-19 is killing many more people in their homes,” said a health worker who was told of the death of the retiree, “because they did not know they had it or were too wary of it.” to contact people for help. “
The coronavirus has killed more than 25,500 people in France, the fifth global death toll after the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.
The government plans to add home deaths in June. How difficult it is to predict, because the health authorities do not carry out COVID-19 tests on people who have died at home.
INSEE data shows that 109,327 people died in France during the period from March 1 to April 20, an increase of 26% and 15% compared to the corresponding periods in 2019 and 2018. Known deaths linked COVID-19 therefore represent 19% of total deaths.
Data shows that home deaths during this period jumped 28% from 2019 to 26,324.
Jacques Battistoni, president of the National Union of General Practitioners, told Reuters that his organization estimated that at least 9,000 people had died from COVID-19 at home. He said it was based on one in six of 55,000 French GPs reporting at least one suspected death of COVID-19.
“People are afraid to go to their doctor or disturb them and the symptoms may be mild,” said Battistoni.
“WE WILL FIND MORE”
Official statistics show that the increase in death rates from the coronavirus epidemic has been significantly higher in some of the low-income neighborhoods outside the ring road surrounding Paris.
Home deaths over the same six-week period more than doubled in Seine-Saint-Denis in the northwest, Val-de-Marne in the east and Hauts-de-Seine in the west, compared to 2019 and 2018.
The heavy toll shows how the combination of cramped social housing, front-line workers and a distrust of the authorities have turned these areas into hot spots where many were reluctant to ask for help. help.
Doctors have warned that the excessive mortality rate may also be linked to people who have died from other illnesses because the coronavirus epidemic has discouraged people from seeing a doctor.
On April 29, Health Minister Olivier Veran told Parliament that the Public Health Authority, responsible for compiling COVID-19 data, would have an answer on home deaths in June.
Asked about the predictions of at least 9,000 deaths by the Battistoni union, he told lawmakers: “We have received a first alert from them concerning a possible excess mortality at home, but which is not necessarily linked to COVID but medical complications from people who didn’t go to the hospital. ”
Edouard Jean-Baptiste, a general practitioner east of Paris, said it could take up to a year to get a full picture of the impact of COVID-19, as was the case with the annual figures flu.
“I think in the weeks and months to come we will find more people who have died of COVID-19 at home and whom we knew nothing about,” he said.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Richard Lough and Nick Macfie)