Spanish mortality rate hit record high in 2020, births sharply down - data

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Father Marcos Rad officiates the funeral as municipal workers wearing protective gear lower the coffin of a victim of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at El Salvador cemetery in Vitoria, Spain, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent West/File Photo

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MADRID, June 17 (Reuters) - Spain's mortality rate hit its highest level last year since the current series of statistics began in the mid-1970s while the number of births fell sharply due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, data showed on Thursday.

The official number of deaths in 2020 totalled 492,930, up 17.5% from the previous year, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said.

Average life expectancy in Spain fell by 1.24 years to 82.3 years, the data showed.

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Spain's official death toll from COVID-19 totalled 80,615 as of June 15, out of a total population of around 47 million.

The economic pain from the pandemic and restrictions on mass gatherings and parties almost halved the number of weddings from the previous year to 90,416, the data showed.

Births fell almost 6% to 339,206, another record low, as couples postponed pregnancies as well as weddings.

Demography experts have been forecasting a sharp fall in the birth rate across Europe for 2021 as younger people of child-bearing age have generally suffered the worst economic blow from the lockdowns.

The lockdowns have had a devastating effect on the wedding industry as parties have had to respect a series of onerous restrictions, including a ban on dancing.

The industry's figures have been improving in 2021, but are still far from 2019 levels, said Maria Gobartt, who owns Gobbart Events, a wedding and event planning company.

She expects a bounce-back in 2022 as many couples postponed their plans until next year, hoping that all restrictions will have been lifted by then.

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Reporting by Cristina Galán and Inti Landauro Editing by Gareth Jones

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