Coronavirus: Further 18 deaths reported in Northern Ireland

Figures come after confirmation deaths at least one third higher than reported in NI

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann during a visit to Northern Ireland’s Nightingale hospital in Belfast. File photograph: PA

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann during a visit to Northern Ireland’s Nightingale hospital in Belfast. File photograph: PA

 

The number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland is at least one third higher than previously reported, it was confirmed on Friday.

Most of the additional recorded deaths happened in care homes and hospices.

This prompted trade unions in Northern Ireland to call for more resources to be “urgently deployed” to community settings such as “care homes and for those front line workers delivering domiciliary care to vulnerable people in their homes”.

The new figures revealed that while 118 Covid-19 deaths were recorded by the North’s Public Health Agency (PHA) up to Friday April 10th, a more accurate figure of coronavirus fatalities up to that date is 157.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) published new figures on Friday that show that at least 39 suspected Covid-19 deaths were not recorded in the PHA figures up to week ending April 10th.

The discrepancy, as explained by Nisra, is mainly down to the fact that suspected coronavirus deaths in care homes and hospices were not included in the PHA figures up to April 10th.

Of the 118 deaths recorded by the PHA up to April 10th, the vast majority occurred in hospitals, with a small number at residences or in care homes.

The Nisra report says that of the 157 deaths involving Covid-19 up to April 10th, 109 (69 per cent) occurred in hospital, 41 (26 per cent) occurred in care homes and hospices and seven (four per cent) occurred at private addresses. The 41 deaths in care homes and hospices involved 23 separate establishments.

Nisra’s weekly provisional death statistics, which are based on death registration information collected by the general register office in Northern Ireland, count all deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned by a doctor on the death certificate, whether or not it was the primary underlying cause of death.

Nisra also reported that for the previous five years the average number of deaths in Northern Ireland in week 14 – in this case the week ending April 10th - was 295, but that the number of deaths in that week this year was 435.

This means that the number of deaths this year is more than 50 per cent above the average number of deaths in Northern Ireland for the previous five years. This, according to Nisra, is also the trend for Britain.

Later on Friday afternoon the North’s Public Health Agency reported that 18 more people have died from coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

This brings the number of Covid-19 related deaths, according to the PHA list, to 176. That figures does not include the additional suspected 39 Covid-19 deaths reported by Nisra in its weekly bulletin.

The PHA also reported 137 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, leaving the total number of cases now at 2,338. So far 15,025 people have been tested for the virus in Northern Ireland.

Referring to the additional Nisra-reported deaths, Irish Congress of Trade Unions assistant general secretary Owen Reidy said there was great concern “that our vulnerable older people, and our members providing them care in the community, are at increasing risk as the pandemic spreads.

“The Executive must as a matter of priority engage with us on a strategy to both halt the spread of Covid-19 within the community and to protect workers on the frontline,” he said.

“We need to make clear as part of wider society that there are no expendable people, that older people in care homes or in need of domestic support are valued by us all as much as they are loved by their families,” added Mr Reidy.

Meanwhile, despite the coronavirus restrictions and a 60 per cent reduction in traffic, the PSNI said it arrested 103 people for drink or drug driving offences over the last fortnight.

“At a time when we are all working together to try and minimise unnecessary pressure on our NHS and emergency service colleagues, it is particularly disappointing that so many people have decided to put lives at risk by driving after drinking or taking drugs,” said Inspector Rosie Leech said.

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