Fact Check-Italy did not reduce its reported tally of COVID-19 deaths by 97%

Refiled to correct grammar in headline

Online claims that Italy adjusted downwards its COVID-19 death toll by 97% are untrue.

Reports and posts online with this claim misinterpret recent analysis by the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) into the characteristics of COVID-19 patients dying in Italy ( here ).

The analysis reported a total of 130,468 deaths that had been registered as of Oct. 5, 2021. (For the latest data on the country, see the Reuters tracker, here )

Of those who died in hospital, data was available for 7,910 people on their comorbidities diagnosed before the SARS-CoV-2 infection (meaning having two or more diseases at the same time) ( here ): 2.9% presented with no comorbidities and 97.1% had one or more condition listed aside from COVID-19, such as ischemic heart disease, heart failure, type-2 diabetes, obesity or autoimmune disease (see Table 1 here).

These figures have been misconstrued online, with reports and social media posts making claims that the European country has “corrected”, “reduced” or “officially revised” its COVID-19 death toll ( here, here, here, here ).

“You see Patriots Covid is just an hysterical scam (sic)! It’s the boogeyman!,” reads part of a comment from a Twitter user. “Italy’s suspected covid death tally corrected from 132,161 to 3,783... this is where covid hysteria began, and it was 97% FICTION,” another user wrote.

Previous analysis of deaths in patients with COVID-19 by the ISS from December 2020 and July 2021 featured similar percentages of break downs of deaths that included comorbidities ( here, here).

On Oct. 25, the institute addressed the false claims made about their document ( ).

“The [2.9%] 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-existent diseases (concomitants) is a risk factor,” they said.

Underlying medical conditions put people with COVID-19 at greater risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ( here ).

In September 2020, Reuters debunked claims spread in the United States that misconstrued comorbidities in deaths of COVID-19 in patients ( here ).

At the time, Maja Artandi ( here ), medical director of the Stanford CROWN Clinic for COVID-19 patients ( here ), told Reuters via email that “patients who have a comorbidity such as diabetes, hypertension or obesity have a higher risk of getting seriously ill and dying from COVID-19.” The novel coronavirus also “can cause severe damage to the organs in the body such as the lungs, which then leads to respiratory failure and death.”

This does not mean, however, that COVID-19 played no role in their deaths.

“If they had not gotten the infection,” Artandi said, “they would still be alive.”

In May 2020, Full Fact addressed similar allegations that misconstrued comorbidity data by the ISS here.


False. Italy did not downgrade its COVID-19 death toll by 97%. Rather, posts misconstrue an analysis by Italy’s National Institute of Health on the characteristics of the patients who have died of COVID-19 in the country.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here.