Monday’s Nikkei took up Health Ministry data showing that “excess mortality” in 2020 dropped by 9,373, or 0.7%, from a year ago despite the coronavirus pandemic. As the elderly have been hit hardest by COVID-19, public health experts were worried about a potential surge in excess mortality, which indicates whether the number of deaths has increased compared with the previous year. Until last year, the figure had increased by about 20,000 almost annually on account of the aging population. The number of people who died of influenza and pneumonia unrelated to the coronavirus dropped sharply by 70% and 20%, respectively, last year. The ministry attributed the decline to strict COVID-19 infection prevention measures such as social distancing and mask wearing that were in place throughout the year. The data also showed the number of people who died of stroke and heart disease also plunged despite a spike in the number of patients requiring emergency treatment owing in part to hospital beds being constantly occupied by coronavirus patients.