In Italy, between February 20 and March 31, 12,428 people were recorded as having died of the coronavirus. But in the same period, authorities noted 25,354 “excess deaths” compared with the average of the five previous years.

For the United States, the difference is even more striking: according to data for March, before the country was hit by the worst of the pandemic, the number of excess deaths reached 6,000 — more than triple the official COVID-19 toll.

Even in Germany, widely considered by experts to have handled the outbreak better than other EU countries, 3,706 deaths more than the average were noted in March, even as the official virus toll was 2,218.

In France, by contrast, for the period from March 1 to April 27, the COVID-19 toll of 23,291 is very close to the total number — 24,116 — of additional deaths compared with 2019.