Coronavirus: Care home residents account for more than half of NI deaths

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

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People residing in care homes have accounted for more than half of Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland, official figures show.

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

It shows that by last Friday, 380 (53.1%) of the 716 deaths it recorded in total had been care home residents.

Of those deaths, 318 (53.1%) occurred in a care home, with the remaining 62 taking place in hospital.

The numbers also show that deaths involving coronavirus in Northern Ireland have fallen for the fourth week in a row.

Nisra records all fatalities where Covid-19 is mentioned on a death certificate.

NI's Department of Health, which releases daily figures, had recorded 504 deaths - more than 200 fewer - by the same date.

On Friday, the department said it had recorded three more Covid-19 related deaths, bringing its death total to 521.

The department's figures are mostly comprised of hospital deaths and where a patient had previously tested positive for the virus.

The latest figures on the department's dashboard show a further 17 confirmed positive cases of the virus, bringing that total to 4,696.

Nisra's report says of the 716 deaths it recorded by last Friday, 353 (49.3%) occurred in care homes; 318 (44.4%) occurred in hospital and eight (1.1%) occurred in hospices.

Residential addresses or another location are recorded as being the site of 37 deaths (5.2%).

The deaths in care homes and hospices involved 76 separate establishments, Nisra reported.

People aged over 75 accounted for almost 80% of all Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland.

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

Of the 11 councils, Belfast has recorded the most deaths, 209, while Fermanagh and Omagh has registered the fewest deaths, recording 16.

Why has Nisra published new information relating to care home residents?

The impact of Covid-19 on care homes in Northern Ireland has become a focus for public health officials and statisticians.

Earlier in May, Health Minister Robin Swann asked Nisra to publish more information relating specifically to care homes, and there was recognition it would be of interest to the wider community.

The minister said he welcomed the decision to place more information in the public domain, regarding deaths of care home residents.

"While the death rate in NI continues to decrease, Covid-19 is still a very real threat," he added.

However, what Nisra's figures do not tell us is where those 62 care home residents, who died in hospitals, actually contracted the virus.

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

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

The Department of Health has said testing will be carried out for all care home staff and residents by June.

There have been 137 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes across Northern Ireland, according to figures from the Department of Health.

In the Republic of Ireland, the government said testing of all care home staff and residents has already been completed.

Northern Ireland's excess deaths

Nisra said the total number of all deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending 22 May was 325; falling from 396 in the previous week - and higher than what would be expected at this time of year.

The corresponding five-year average death rate in Northern Ireland is 290.

Nisra said there had been 902 "excess deaths" registered in Northern Ireland over the last eight 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, such as people who died because of the strain on hospitals and care homes or by the effects of the lockdown.

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