The Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale (INPS), the largest social security and welfare institute in Italy, said in a new study that the official death figures were not “reliable”, according to AFP.

Its study showed that 156,42 total deaths were recorded in Italy in March and April, which is 46,909 higher than the average number of fatalities in those months recorded between 2015 and 2019.

But only 27,938 deaths linked to coronavirus were reported during that period by the Civil Protection Agency, whose toll forms the basis of national statistics, the INPS said.

That meant there were 18,971 excess deaths during this period, with the vast majority of 18,412 recorded in the coronavirus-ravaged north of the country.