Prominent internationally recognized Croatian scientist Miroslav Radman claims that in Croatia there are 967 fewer deaths ”at this time“ compared to last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While Mr Radman does not specify in his claim to what period he specifically is referring to, stats from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics – which he quotes – show us that between March 2020, when the pandemic was officially declared, and September 2020; Croatia has had more deaths than in the same period last year. Therefore, Mr Radman’s statement is assessed as false.
In an interview for a Croatian evening TV news show RTL Direkt, Miroslav Radman spoke about the situation around the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. He said: “When I look at the data of the Central Bureau of Statistics, it is apparent that at this time of the year there were 967 fewer deaths than at the same time last year. A man of common sense then wonders where such a terrible problem lies.“ Considering the situation in the world and the presence of fear around the pandemic we deemed it necessary to check the credibility of Mr Radman’s statement.
Stats…but from which period?
Since Mr Radman did not specify what period of the year he is referring to, we assumed that he was talking about the period between March and September 2020. In Croatia the pandemic was officially declared in March, while September was the last month with published stats at the time when Mr Radman was a guest in the mentioned TV evening news show and made this claim. In order to check the claim, the Croatian Bureau of Statistics – that Mr Radman quotes in his claim – was contacted. As their data on the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on socioeconomic show, the number of deaths from March to September of 2020 increased by 2.4% compared to the same period last year.
The numbers don’t add up
There have been 688 more deaths in the mentioned period this year. The rise of Covid-19 cases in Croatia is also reflected in the rise of numbers of people who died from Covid-19. That is why in September of 2019 there were 3846 deaths, while in September of 2020 there were 4328 deaths, which means they increased by 12.5% or 482 more deaths. In search of the number 967 that Mr Radman mentions, we analysed the stats for March, May and June 2020 when there were altogether 576 fewer deaths in comparison to the same months last year. However, these numbers are still not close to the number Mr Radman mentioned in the interview. No matter the way in which these numbers are analysed and compared, Mr Radman’s numeric assessment simply does not add up.
In addition, during the factchecking process, the team came upon an online article by Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list about Mr Radman’s appearance in the TV news show. However, the journalists made a mistake in their interview transcription. In the article, Jutarnji list states that Mr Radman said there have been 1967 fewer deaths this year, therefore raising the number by a thousand. This was, surprisingly, also done on the website of RTL Direkt, the TV show where Mr Radman made the claim. Afterwards the headline of the article was corrected, but not the header of the video with the interview. Just as it is important to be careful about making true and verifiable claims, it is equally important to accurately report them.
In conclusion, Mr Miroslav Radman’s statement about lower number of deaths in Croatia during the pandemic is false. When making such serious claims and dealing with sensitive information during the pandemic, it is important to be very specific about the data and time frame. This claim is just one of many examples that caused different confrontations and discussions within the scientific community in Croatia and abroad.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Dario Gradecak & Dorotea Jagic, University of Zagreb, HR
Leave your comments, thoughts and suggestions in the box below. Take note: your response is moderated.