Canada seems to have fallen behind the U.S. in its handling of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, but new data from Statistics Canada reveals that there were far fewer extra deaths in the first two waves domestically.

The national statistical agency reported that there were an estimated 309,912 deaths in Canada in 2020, which included 16,333 in “excess” deaths — beyond what was expected without the emergence of a pandemic.

Both Canada and the U.S. experienced excess deaths in 2020.

While Canada suffered 5.6% more deaths than expected, the U.S. recorded more than half a million excess deaths (506,906), representing 17.4% more than expected in 2020, StatsCan said.

“Excess mortality in both countries appeared to be largely attributable to deaths caused directly by Covid-19,” StatsCan said, noting that Canada’s excess mortality was more in line with the number of deaths from Covid-19.

About 5% of Canada’s deaths in 2020 came as a result of Covid-19, compared with about 11% of U.S. deaths last year, StatsCan said.

On both sides of the border, excess deaths rose in the wake of the first wave of the pandemic, starting in late March 2020. Then, during the summer, Canada’s death rate reverted to expected levels, whereas the U.S. continued to suffer excess mortality.

Starting in September, both countries saw excess deaths rise again — a trend that “has continued into 2021,” StatsCan said.

Between September and the first week of January, Canada experienced about 9% more deaths than expected, whereas excess mortality in the U.S. was about 27%.

“As the pandemic continues, excess mortality in Canada has shifted to affect younger populations, but this shift cannot be explained by changes in the number of deaths attributed directly to Covid-19,” StatsCan said.

For instance, the agency reported that excess mortality among those under age 45 in Canada was 19% higher than expected since September, yet there was no increase in deaths from the virus in this age group (which has accounted for less than 1% of the Covid-19 deaths).

“These shifts imply an increase in deaths that may be indirectly associated with the pandemic or other factors,” StatsCan said, pointing to possible causes such as increase in overdose deaths in some provinces.

StatsCan also noted that 55% of deaths in Canada from Covid-19 have been in these aged over 85. In the U.S., the 65 to 84 year old group has been hardest-hit, accounting for 49% of pandemic deaths in that country during the year.