Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Fall in weekly NI care home deaths

Coronavirus Image copyright Getty Images

The number of Covid-19 related deaths in care homes in the week to 8 May was about 50% fewer than the previous week.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) has published its weekly statistical bulletin.

In the week up to 8 May, 36 deaths happened in care homes. In the previous week, by 1 May, that figure was 72.

However, almost half of the 599 coronavirus-related deaths recorded by Nisra in total have so far happened in care homes.

Two sets of Covid-19 figures are published in Northern Ireland:

  • A daily set produced by the Department of Health, which counts mostly hospital deaths and where a patient tested positive for the virus
  • The weekly statistics from Nisra, which cover all fatalities where coronavirus has been recorded on the death certificate

On Friday, the Department of Health reported a further 15 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing its total to 469.

Nine deaths happened since Thursday, six had occurred earlier but have only now been added to the department's figures.

Meanwhile, Nisra's report says that by last Friday - out of 599 Covid-19 related deaths in total - 294 (49.1%) occurred in hospital; 269, (44.9%), occurred in care homes and five (0.8%) occurred in hospices.

Image caption The Department of Health's figures mostly count hospital deaths, and where a patient tested positive for the virus

Thirty-one (5.2%) took place at residential addresses or another location.

The deaths in care homes and hospices involved 71 separate establishments, Nisra reported.

In the week up to 8 May, the number of people who died in hospital settings, 37, was similar to the number of deaths that took place in care homes, 36.

The previous two weeks showed that more people had died in care homes than in hospitals.

People aged over 75 accounted for more than three-quarters of all Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland.

The department 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 daily figures.

The total death toll is ultimately set to be higher.

The latest figures from Nisra also include a breakdown of all Covid-19 related deaths by council area, for the first time.

Of the 11 councils, Belfast had recorded the most deaths, 173, while Fermanagh and Omagh had the fewest deaths, recording 16 by 8 May.

On Thursday, Health Minister Robin Swann said a request he placed to Nisra to release figures twice a week had been rejected.

He also asked if the Department of Health's dashboard output could be extended to include a breakdown of the daily fatalities by setting.

But Nisra said it was "committed to publishing as much information as it can about Covid-19 related deaths as quickly as possible".

"In doing so we must not compromise the accuracy, quality and integrity of this information," said a spokesperson.

What do we know about the situation in NI's care homes?

Three separate care homes in Northern Ireland have publicly reported deaths in double figures, including:

Currently, residents and staff are only tested for coronavirus in care homes where there is a suspected outbreak, or if they are new entrants to the care home sector.

In the Republic of Ireland, testing of all care home staff and residents is expected to be completed this week.

Northern Ireland's excess deaths

The total number of all deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending 8 May was 336; falling from 427 in the previous week - but still higher than what would be expected at this time of year.

Northern Ireland's five-year average rate is 274 deaths per week.

Nisra said there had been 766 "excess deaths" registered in Northern Ireland over the last six weeks.

This measure captures all deaths caused by the coronavirus: the infections that were confirmed and feature in the daily figures; as well as the suspected cases that were mentioned on the death certificate.

It also captures the deaths caused indirectly by the epidemic: people who died because of the strain on hospitals and care homes or people affected by the lockdown.

How does Northern Ireland compare to the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland?

Although comparisons between countries and regions are difficult due to differences in how statistics are compiled, Northern Ireland's death rate (27 per 100,000 of the population) is similar to that of the Republic of Ireland (29 per 100,000) and significantly lower than that of Great Britain (43 per 100,000).

Across the UK, the total death toll stands at 33,614, while in the Republic of Ireland there have been 1,508 deaths recorded so far.

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