Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Postcodes show NI Covid deaths disparity

Holywood Road Image copyright Albert Bridge
Image caption The number of deaths is highest in the BT4 postcode area

A postcode area in east Belfast has recorded the most Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland, according to figures from statistics agency Nisra.

The BT4 area - taking in parts of the Upper Newtownards Road, Holywood Road and Sydenham - had 36 deaths.

It is followed by BT13 with 30 deaths, which encompasses the Shankill Road and touches on the Crumlin Road as well the West Circular Road.

An academic said the postcode breakdown suggested inequality played a role.

In total the Department of Health has recorded 556 coronavirus-related deaths in Northern Ireland since the pandemic began.

These figures mostly relate to deaths in hospital where the person who died had previously tested positive for Covid-19.

The BT4 and BT13 postcodes cover some of the most deprived parts of Northern Ireland, which also have high population densities.

Dr John Moriarty, from Queen's University's Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation said the obvious explanation for higher deaths in deprived areas was "underlying health conditions".

He said: "The geographical distribution of Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland is further evidence that the burden of this infection is falling disproportionately on those most deprived.

"Figures released previously suggested that the virus itself may have been widespread in both the most deprived and most affluent areas.

"This may have been linked to more international travel undertaken earlier in the year for both business and pleasure by those in wealthier areas.

"Alternatively, it may have been because of greater awareness of the need to be tested.

"However, what is clear is that infection in well-off areas isn't causing as many people to go to hospital or to die.

"But the most obvious explanation for the higher deaths from Covid-19 in deprived areas is the level of underlying ill-health which existed in those areas prior to the pandemic."

Image copyright QUB
Image caption Dr John Moriarty says other inequalities are being highlighted by Covid-19

Former GP and Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) Belfast city councillor John Kyle says it's "really not surprising" the consequences of coronavirus could be more severe for people in disadvantaged areas.

"We live in a context where there are health inequalities," he said.

"People from wealthier backgrounds tend to enjoy better health, people from more disadvantaged backgrounds tend to suffer more ill health."

Mr Kyle said deaths from Covid-19 are associated with comorbidities, particularly obesity, but also lung and heart disease.

"Those conditions are more common in disadvantaged communities," he said.

Past research has shown that people living in the poorest parts of Belfast are more likely to die prematurely than in any other part of the UK.

Data released by Nisra (Northern Ireland's Statistics and Research Agency) in 2018 showed that of the 100 most deprived areas of Northern Ireland, Belfast accounted for half.

Outside of Belfast's council area, those that have recorded most deaths are situated nearby - BT36 in Newtownabbey has recorded 27 deaths, while BT23 in Newtownards has also seen the same number.

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