The 8th Cohesion Report presents the main changes in territorial disparities in the EU over the past decade and how EU and national policies have affected those disparities.  The full report is available here
On this page, you can explore a selection of interactive maps and charts presenting the regional pattern of excess deaths in 2020-2021.

1. Less developed regions had a higher excess mortality rate

Between March 2020 and July 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic led to excess mortality in the EU of at least 872 000 deaths. In other words, compared with the average of the five previous years, the number of deaths since the start of the pandemic was 13% higher. This includes deaths directly resulting from COVID-19 and those caused indirectly because of the saturation of hospital capacity and lack of usual care. For example, half of the NUTS 3 regions for which data are available experienced at least one week with over double the usual mortality.
Regional excess mortality since the start of the pandemic reveals hotspots in northern Italy and Madrid, which were heavily affected in the first wave, as well as in Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Bulgaria, which were more affected in later waves.
Overall, less developed regions had the highest excess mortality rate (17% higher) as compared with transition regions (11%) and more developed regions (12%).
- Use the play button (bottom left of the map) to play the timeseries animation;
- Zoom using the mouse roller;
- Click on a region to see its value
- Use the bookmark icon in the top right to zoom to the outermost regions;
- Click on the "i" icon top right for the description of the data. 
Download animated map: MP4 Video - gif file
Notes on the data: Source REGIO calculations based on Eurostat data (demo_r_mwk3_t). Data is not available for Ireland. For Italy no data is available for the last weeks of 2021. 

2. The first wave affected the southern EU most, while the next waves affected the eastern EU more

The excess mortality during the first wave mainly affected regions in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. During the second wave, excess mortality was predominantly highest in regions in eastern Europe — in Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Czechia, Romania and Hungary. Vaccines offer the best way out of the pandemic. In November 2021, approximately 70% of the total population had been fully vaccinated. Uptake of vaccinations, however, differed between and within Member States. Data reported in November indicated that in multiple regions in Romania and Bulgaria less than 20% of the population was fully vaccinated, while in many regions in Belgium, France and Spain more than 80% of the population was fully vaccinated.
 Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the values of the three geographic regions.
Notes: The southern EU consists of Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Portugal. The eastern EU consists of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 and after, except Malta and Cyprus, i.e. Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. The north-western EU consists of the remaining countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Finland.

3. The pandemic first surged in urban regions, but then it spiked in rural regions

The excess mortality rate during the first wave was highest in urban regions and peaked at 80% in April 2020, whereas it was lower than 40% in intermediate regions and only 20% in rural regions. During the second wave, rural regions had the highest excess rate, which peaked at 55%, whereas it was somewhat lower in towns and suburbs (48%) and cities (43%).
- Hover your mouse pointer over the figure to see the values of the urban, intermediate and rural regions.

4. Cohesion policy response

In the face of the socio-economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, cohesion policy has been in the forefront of the EU response. In particular, the response focused on the main immediate effects of this unprecedented shock (a) the major strain on the healthcare sector and (b) the substantial liquidity risk to businesses, notably small businesses, forced to cease their activities — with millions of jobs at stake, together with an irreversible loss of skills and capacity.
The European institutions enacted two related sets of measures in record time: 
  • the Coronavirus Response Investment initiatives (CRII/CRII+) enlarged the eligibility of cohesion policy funds and increased the flexibility offered to programming authorities for the reprogramming of existing EU support. More than €20 billion was reallocated to secure vital personal protective equipment, ventilators and ambulances. Businesses were able to benefit from emergency grants and low-interest rate loans, which allowed them to stay afloat during lockdowns. New employment measures, in particular short-time work arrangements, were put in place to make sure people did not find themselves without income from one day to another. In parallel, simplification measures were promoted and rules were adjusted to assist with the pressure on public budgets. 
  • The introduction of the REACT-EU initiative, which was the first to mobilise resources under Next generation EU, provided EUR 50 billion of new EU financing in 2021 and 2022. Thanks to its high rate of pre-financing, Member States have already been able to start working on new projects to help medical institutions, business owners, employees and vulnerable people. This injection of EU funds will allow the resumption of projects previously halted in favour of emergency needs. Moreover, special attention has been given to green and digital priorities, which are essential for a smart, sustainable and resilient recovery, consistent with the EU’s broader political agenda.

Overall, cohesion policy has proved to be agile and effective in adapting rapidly to the crisis, providing Member States, regions and cities with a comprehensive and tailored toolkit to address the uneven territorial social and economic effects of the pandemic. These measures have been taken up in different ways according to the needs and choices made by National and regional authorities. 
More details on the Cohesion Policy pandemic response are available:

5. More information

Data stories linked to the 8th Cohesion Report: Regional COVID-19 impact - Regional innovation gaps - Regional demographic trends
Find out more about #CohesionOpenData  Website Blog FAQ User Guide - Browse other data stories 

Authors:  Lewis DIJKSTRA
Text:        March 2022