Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Third of NI deaths occurred in care homes

coronavirus samples Image copyright Getty Images

New figures show that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in NI is significantly higher than previously reported.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) has published its weekly breakdown of its fatalities.

It shows the total number of deaths by 17 April (276) was higher than had been reported by NI's Public Health Agency (PHA) by the same date (212).

About a third of the 276 deaths (96) occurred in care homes and hospices.

Two sets of figures are published in Northern Ireland, a daily set produced by the Public Health Agency, which count mostly hospital deaths, and the weekly statistics from Nisra, which cover all fatalities where coronavirus has been recorded on the death certificate.

The latest PHA figures on Friday showed that there had been 15 more coronavirus-related deaths recorded mostly in hospitals since Friday, bringing the PHA total of recorded deaths to 278.

The figures also showed there had been another 106 confirmed Covid-19 cases, bringing the total in Northern Ireland to 3,122.

The Department of Health has said there is always a time lag for registering deaths in the community, with the process taking up to five days, and that the Nisra report could not feasibly be linked to the PHA figures.

The total death toll is ultimately likely to be higher.

Image caption Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, said the figures were "very sad but not surprising"

In its bulletin covering the period to April 17, Nisra said there were 166 hospital deaths, 93 in care homes, three in hospices and 14 at residential addresses.

The deaths that occurred in care homes involved 44 separate establishments.

The new figures show people older than 75 accounted for about three quarters of coronavirus-related deaths; 54% were men.

'Care homes are frontline'

Care home residents account for almost half of all coronavirus-related deaths reported in the Republic of Ireland while World Heath Organisation (WHO) figures show that almost half of all people who have died with Covid-19 in Europe were in care facilities.

Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, said the figures were "very sad but not surprising".

"We knew there have been problems in homes and outbreaks and we know that people in those homes are amongst most vulnerable groups in our society. Those 93 deaths - every single one - is a tragedy," he told BBC's Stephen Nolan Show.

"It confirms really that at this stage in this pandemic, care homes are frontline in this crisis."

He added that while the number of deaths in care homes would continue to rise, not every death was inevitable and urged a "redoubling of efforts".

Mr Lynch met officials from the Department of Health on Thursday, after calling for testing of all residents and staff in care homes.

"They explained what they are doing, their current strategy and what they have been doing over the last number of weeks in terms of testing in homes," he said.

"They have made changes and ramped it up, they are testing anyone with symptoms.

"I've made it clear that I don't believe that's enough."

Age NI said it was calling for assurances that older people can access the treatment and care they need, "including Covid-19 interventions".

"It is imperative that care home and community services are provided with PPE, testing arrangements, and additional staff so they so they can continue to provide safe, compassionate care," said charity director Paschal McKeown.

"It is important we leave no-one behind in this pandemic and that future decisions on responding to COVID 19 act on what the NISRA Statistics are telling us."

In other developments:

  • The Northern Ireland Executive is to decide whether cemeteries should be reopened on a controlled basis during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Supermarkets have been responding to a Stormont call to support local beef farmers during the coronavirus crisis
  • An enhanced contact tracing programme for Covid-19 will pilot in Northern Ireland next week
  • The first of the £25,000 government grants to help hospitality and tourism businesses in NI through the coronavirus pandemic will be issued today

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