Fact Check: The Italian Government Did NOT Exaggerate The Number of COVID-19 Deaths

Fact Check

  • by: Marlo Lee
Fact Check: The Italian Government Did NOT Exaggerate The Number of COVID-19 Deaths No Change

Did the Italian government exaggerate the number of COVID-19 deaths in the country? No, that's not true: The late-2021 refinement of Italy's statistics did not change the number of COVID deaths documented in Italy. The Italian government began publishing data that shows how many people died of COVID with other serious health conditions (called comorbidities) and how many died of COVID with no other comorbidities. As has been the case worldwide, the data show Italians with life-shortening conditions such as obesity, heart disease, lung disease and age-related infirmities are more vulnerable to COVID.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) where it was published by humansarefree.com on November 3, 2021 under the title "HUGE! Italy's Suspected Covid Death Tally Corrected From 132,161 to 3,783." The article opened:

A new report from Italy's Higher Institution of Health provides an objective analysis of the nation's misleading covid-19 death tally. Italy's official covid death tally rose to 132,161 in October of 2021. This tally is unrealistic because covid-19 was diagnosed in haste and under conditions of financial bribery using non-specific diagnostic criteria.

Here is what the article looked like at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2021-11-09 at 10.09.45 AM.png

(Source: Humansarefree.com screenshot taken on Tues Nov 9 14:11:11 2021 UTC)

The Italian Higher Institute of Health (referred to as ISS) sent out a tweet in Italian on October 25, 2021, with the translated version stating:

❌ It is not true that only 2.9% of #deaths attributed to #Covid19 it is due to the virus

➡️Read the clarifications on the main ones #fakenews relating to the latest death report 👇

Linked in the tweet was an article in Italian published by the Italian Higher Institute of Health. The article has been translated by Google Translate:

In relation to what was reported by various media regarding the data contained in the report on the characteristics of patients who died positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Italy published last October 19, and in order to promote their appropriate interpretation, it is considered useful to specify that:

  • The report does not state that only 2.9% of deaths attributed to Covid-19 are due to the virus. The percentage of 2.9%, also reported in previous editions, refers to the percentage of patients who died with positivity for SARS-CoV-2 who had no other pathologies diagnosed before the infection. Moreover, the figure is confirmed by the observation made since the early stages of the pandemic and widely reported in various national and international studies and reports also by the ISS, that having pre-existing diseases... is a risk factor.
  • The joint ISTAT-ISS reports drawn up on the basis of death certificates show that COVID-19 is the directly responsible cause of death in 89% of deaths of people positive to the SARS-CoV-2 test
  • Regardless of COVID 19, it is emphasized that the presence of chronic diseases in the elderly population is very common. A recent Istat report indicates that only 15% of the elderly population would not suffer from chronic diseases and that about 52% would suffer from 3 or more chronic diseases. In view of the fact that chronic diseases represent a risk factor for death from COVID-19 and that these are very common in the general population, it is not surprising the high frequency of these conditions in the SARS-CoV-2 positive deceased population.
  • It is also not correct to state that the pathologies found in SARS-CoV-2 positive deceased would have led to death "in a short time". The concomitance of multiple chronic pathologies in the same person constitutes in itself an element of fragility generally compensated for with appropriate therapies: contracting an infection such as SARS-CoV-2 translates into an increased risk of complications and death. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, an excess of mortality in the population has been recorded, i.e. a higher number of deaths than in previous years, the estimates of which are periodically reported in the joint IST-ISTAT report.It should be noted that the pre-existing pathologies reported in the report, aimed at characterizing the characteristics of the decased, are evaluated by a group of ISS doctors through the review of a sample of hospital medical records sent to ISS by the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, and the pre-existing pathologies most frequently found in SARS-CoV positive deceased are shown in table 1 of the report. The most represented are hypertension, type 2 diabetes and dementia, very frequent pathologies in the population.

ISS stands for Instituto Superiore di Sanità (Higher Institute of Health) and ISTAT stands for Instituto Nazionale di Statistica (National Institute of Statistics).

Here is a fact check of a similar claim, published by OPEN, a nonprofit journalism website oriented to young readers and issues affecting the young. The fact checkers debunk the claim that the Italian government added non-COVID deaths to the COVID-19 death tally, inflating the death toll.

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

Marlo Lee is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Biology. Her interest in fact checking started in college, when she realized how important it became in American politics. She lives in Maryland.

Read more about or contact

About Us

International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate stories, videos or images going viral on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

Lead Stories is a:


Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Lead Stories LLC:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Most Read

Most Recent

Share your opinion