Covid-19 has caused more than 7,000 deaths in Ireland – some 2,000 more than the officially quoted figure, according to an analysis by US researchers.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) said that, globally, the virus had been responsible for about 6.9 million deaths, more than double the official figure.
Deaths are significantly under-reported in almost every country, states the analysis, which estimated the total number of Covid-19 deaths in Ireland at 7,113 up to last Monday.
The researchers considered all causes of deaths and lives saved related to the pandemic, but because of a lack of data they based their estimates on excess mortality. They say their figures are under-estimates that will be revised upwards as more evidence comes to light.
The Department of Health, which puts the number of confirmed, probable and possible Covid-19 deaths at 4,921, did not respond on Thursday night to a request for comment on the IHME estimate.
IHME’s view in April of last year that Ireland’s death rate had peaked was criticised as unreliable by Irish officials. However, it turned out to be accurate, as did its projection of the number of deaths in Europe during the first surge of the pandemic.
In September, the Washington-based institution warned Ireland could suffer another 1,200 Covid-19 deaths by the end of the year if face masks were not used more. This came to pass by the second half of January, as did a worst-case forecast of 8,000 cases a day.
On Thursday night, the department reported eight further Covid-19 deaths – five of them from earlier months – along with 393 infections, as case numbers continue to remain stable despite the lifting of some restrictions.
With a further easing due from Monday, including a resumption of click-and-collect retail and a reopening of libraries, museums and hairdressers, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said everyone wanted this to be a significant turning point in the pandemic.
With more than 30 per cent of adults having received one dose of vaccine, “it is time to feel hopeful and to start planning our summer”, he said.
The HSE has said it hopes to administer 250,000-270,000 vaccine doses next week.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland reported seven cases of the Covid-19 variant originally identified in India, its first confirmed cases of the strain.