Coronavirus: Holohan calls for quicker deaths registration

‘More timely’ assessment will help create more complete picture of virus impact

Another 41 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 have died, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan as announced at the daily Department Of Health Covid-19 press briefing. The patients included 16 women and 25 men. Video: RTE News Now

Changes are to be made to the way deaths involving Covid-19 are reported so that a fuller picture of the impact of the virus, especially in nursing homes, can be established.

The normal three-month period in which deaths can be registered needs to change in response to the coronavirus pandemic, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has indicated.

The National Public Health Emergency Team would like to see this period shortened so that true number of Covid-19 related deaths can be assessed “on a more timely basis”, he said.

With deaths in nursing homes accounting for almost half of all coronavirus deaths, Dr Holohan said testing for the disease is to be extended to nursing homes beyond those where outbreaks have been reported.


NPHET last night reported 41 deaths of patients diagnosed with Covid-19, the highest daily total so far. The median age of the deaths reported was 85, and 31 of the patients were reported as having underlying health conditions.

There have now been a total of 406 coronavirus-related deaths in the Republic, while the total number of cases now stands at 11,479.

However, there was some good news with the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care decreasing marginally to 160, well within the capacity of the system. Of the 406 deaths so far, 222 are associated with residential settings, including 187 in nursing homes.


The number of clusters of the disease – two or more cases – continues to rise in these settings; now up to 238 clusters in all residential settings, including 156 in nursing homes.

Public health officials said there is still a “four- to five-day” wait for tests to be carried out on patients in the community, although there are now no delays for priority tests on healthcare workers.

Dr Holohan said it was planned to change the case definition for the disease so that cases could be picked up quickly and this change needed to be in place in advance of May 5th, the current end-date for restrictions “to see how it works”.

He said he didn’t have confidence yet that problems with delays in the testing system would not arise.

“We’re not at the point where we can contemplate lifting restrictions, but I hope the situation will be different by May 5th,” he added.

He also said he would not rule out “differential measures” for parts of the country but at this time we would not anticipate recommending such an approach for Dublin, which has the highest incidence of the disease in the State.

Meanwhile, an “IT glitch” has been blamed for an issue that led to up to 100 people being incorrectly informed their Covid-19 test was negative.

Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, apologised to those affected for the distress involved but said there was “no problem” with the lab that had tested the samples in Germany.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.