Number of deaths in North at least a third higher than daily Covid-19 reports

Nearly 400 deaths in North involved coronavirus, statistics agency figures show

Staff and First Responders outside Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, Co Armagh, take part in Thursday’s nationwide Clap for Carers to recognise and support NHS workers. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Staff and First Responders outside Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, Co Armagh, take part in Thursday’s nationwide Clap for Carers to recognise and support NHS workers. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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New Covid-19 death figures for Northern Ireland again show the number of coronavirus fatalities in the North is at least one-third higher than the daily figure reported by the Department of Health.

The latest statistics also show more than 40 per cent of deaths have occurred in care homes.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) in its weekly bulletin on Friday reported that up until the previous Friday, April 24th, there were 393 deaths in Northern Ireland involving Covid-19. This was 94 deaths higher than the total number of deaths recorded by the North’s health department for Friday, April 24th, which was 299 deaths.

The department figures are based on patients having previously tested positive for the virus, whereas the Nisra figures are based on the information entered on death certificates, filled out by medical professionals. They may or may not have previously tested positive for the virus.

Of Nisra’s 393 coronavirus deaths up until April 24th, 209 (53.2 per cent) occurred in hospitals; 158 (40.2 per cent) in care homes; three (0.8 per cent) in hospices and 23 (5.9 per cent) at residential addresses or other locations.

People aged 75 and over accounted for just over three-quarters of Covid-19 related figures while slightly more men (50.3 per cent) than women died from the disease. Separate figures compiled by Nisra also indicated these figures do not reflect the true number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland.

It reported the provisional number of total deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending April 24th (week 16) was 470, 46 more than in week 15 and 186 more than the five-year average of 284.

Nisra said “over the last four weeks in total, 596 “excess deaths” (deaths above the average for the corresponding period in previous years) have been registered in Northern Ireland”.

Censured

Later on Friday afternoon the health department reported 18 more people had died from coronavirus in Northern Ireland. This brings the number of virus deaths, according to the department’s daily list, to 365. It also reported 87 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, leaving the total now at 3,623. So far 27,097 people have been tested for the virus in Northern Ireland.

The North’s Department of Health meanwhile has been censured about its collation of Covid-19 data, amid continuing criticism over how information is being compiled and transmitted to the public.

Ed Humpherson, director general for regulation of the UK Statistics Authority wrote to the North’s health department complaining about “serious public concern” about the Covid-19 data.

A “dashboard” containing detailed coronavirus information was created on April 19th but taken down two days later when some information on it was found to be incorrect.

Mr Humpherson said the figures for coronavirus were of “huge public interest” and that “daily surveillance statistics should be released in a transparent, easily accessible and orderly way”.

“There are gaps in the data and daily time series have been lost since the statistics began to be issued through DoH news releases. These gaps and losses need to be addressed,” he added.

The health department “dashboard” finally came back on stream on Friday afternoon.

Dr Eugene Mooney, a senior statistician with the department, responded to Mr Humpherson that the purpose of the “dashboard” was to provide a “fuller picture” for the public of the continuing effect of the virus in Northern Ireland.