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Coronavirus: More than half of Northern Ireland's 705 victims were care home residents, figures reveal

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New figures have been revealed (Joe Giddens/PA)

New figures have been revealed (Joe Giddens/PA)

New figures have been revealed (Joe Giddens/PA)

Care home residents account for more than half of the 705 people in Northern Ireland who have died from Covid-19, latest figures have shown.

Statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) have also revealed 62 more care home residents have died from Covid-19 than was previously known.

Until now, officials have only been recording deaths according to the location the person passed away, broken down by hospital, care home, hospice and domestic address.

However, NISRA has analysed the figures and discovered that of the 353 Covid-19 deaths that occurred in hospital since the beginning of the pandemic, 62 caught the virus in a care home and were transferred to hospital before passing away.

The NISRA figures, which relate to the number of deaths up to last Friday, show that 380 care home residents have died from Covid-19, with 16% of the deaths happening in hospital.

Care home residents who have died from Covid-19 make up 53.1% of the total number of deaths since the week ending March 20.

Pat Sheehan, Stormont health committee member and Sinn Fein MLA, said: "These figures just confirm what we have suspected for a considerable period now.

"That is that the frail and elderly in our care homes have borne the brunt of the devastation that Covid-19 has brought.

"What is so perplexing is that much more could, and should, have been done to protect care homes in the early stages of this pandemic.

"International experience showed that care homes would be disproportionately affected if they were not properly protected.

"Unfortunately not enough focus was placed on care homes at an early stage in terms of proper infection control, sufficient personal protective equipment and universal testing.

"Had the proper measures been put in place, I believe many of the deaths could have been avoided."

The latest NISRA figures have shown that the lockdown and social distancing has succeeded in driving down the overall number of Covid-19 deaths.

The statistics have revealed that 53 deaths mentioning Covid-19 on the death certificate were registered last week.

This is the fourth consecutive weekly fall in the number of registered Covid-19 related deaths.

The peak for Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland came during the week ending April 24, when 128 Covid-19 deaths were registered.

More than 57% of these happened in care homes, while the following week, more than 60% of the 427 Covid-19 deaths occurred in care homes.

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Paula Bradshaw, Alliance Party health spokeswoman

Paula Bradshaw, Alliance Party health spokeswoman

Paula Bradshaw, Alliance Party health spokeswoman

Paula Bradshaw, Alliance Party health spokeswoman, said: "We can see from the overall figures the scale of the problem we have faced in our care homes, which could surely have been limited by earlier action.

"Nevertheless, it is welcome that the number of deaths in or associated with care homes is declining.

"Now we must remain vigilant to make sure there are now further spikes in care home infections like we saw in April."

Meanwhile, the NISRA figures have also revealed there have been 902 excess deaths in Northern Ireland in the eight weeks running up to the week ending May 22.

With 695 Covid-19 deaths registered during that period, this means there were 207 excess deaths in Northern Ireland compared to the five year average.

The figure has reinforced concerns that people are coming to harm from non-Covid conditions as a result of avoiding healthcare facilities to reduce the pressure on the health service during the pandemic and also because they are concerned they may catch the virus.

There are also growing fears over the number of people with cancer who are going undiagnosed, with hopes that Health Minister Robin Swann will announce his plans for the future of the health service in Northern Ireland in the coming days and weeks.

Mr Swann has said despite the continuing drop in the number of Covid-19 deaths, the virus remains "a very real threat".

"Every one of these statistics represents a person who was loved and is sadly missed," he said.

"We must always remember that. Everyone must keep following public health advice on social distancing and hand washing. I welcome the fact that NISRA's weekly bulletin now contains a more detailed breakdown of information in relation to deaths of care homes residents. I've been in correspondence with NISRA in recent weeks and asked specifically for this additional information to be included in the bulletin in the interests of greater transparency."

Belfast Telegraph