FACT CHECK: Did Italy’s Health Ministry Change Its Official COVID-19 Death Toll From Over 130,000 to 3,783?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims the Italian Ministry of Health revised its official COVID-19 death toll down from 130,000 to 3,783.

Verdict: False

No such revision occurred. The ministry continues to report there have been over 130,000 COVID-19 deaths in Italy.

Fact Check:

The image shows what appears to be a screen grab of an Oct. 21 article published on the website Nexus Newsfeed that puts up the headline: “Italy reduces covid death toll from 130k to 3,783.” The Facebook post goes on to allege the revision of the numbers occurred in connection to a blockade of two of Italy’s key ports by longshoremen protesting Italy’s “Green Pass.”

The Green Pass is a mandatory pass all Italians must now have in order to work that shows they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative for the virus or previously contracted it and recovered, according to BBC News.  (RELATED: Viral Image Claims A Vaccinated Delta Pilot Recently Died Mid-Flight)

While dockworkers did, according to the Italian news wire service ANSA, protest the Green Pass in the Italian ports of Genoa and Trieste in October, there is no evidence these protests led to the Italian government revising its COVID-19 death toll. The number of reported COVID-19 deaths remains at over 132,000 deaths as of press time, according to the Italian Ministry of Health’s website. The New York Times reported a similar number of deaths on its website.

The Nexus Newsfeed article cites an Oct. 21 article from the Italian newspaper Il Tempo as the source of the claims. The Il Tempo article discussed an Oct. 5 government report from Italy’s Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) about the characteristics of COVID-19 patients who died in Italy based on data through Oct. 5. Open.online, an Italian fact-checking website, has previously addressed claims made in the Il Tempo article.

The Oct. 5 ISS report found that among a sample of 7,910 documented COVID-19 deaths in hospitals in Italy, only 2.9 percent of those had no comorbidities. The 3,783 figure cited in the Facebook post appears to be the result of applying this 2.9 percent to the entire Italian COVID-19 death toll, which at the time of the report’s publication was about 130,000.

The ISS has refuted the interpretation that the data means only about 3,700 people in Italy actually died of COVID-19, saying in an Oct. 25 tweet, “It is not true that only 2.9% of deaths attributed to Covid19 are due to the virus.” The ISS said in a press release that “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,” according to a translation.

“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,” the ISS press release also said, per a translation. “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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also long said elderly people and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, chronic liver disease, diabetes and heart issues are more likely to get severely ill or die from COVID-19. (RELATED: Did The CDC Revise Its COVID-19 Death Count To Show That Only 9,120 People ‘Actually Died’ From COVID-19?)

In 2020, Check Your Fact debunked a similar claim that alleged the CDC had “quietly updated” its coronavirus death count to show that only 9,210 people “actually died” from COVID-19.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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