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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland fatality rate 'higher than official figure'

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First Minister Arlene Foster, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Simon Byrne and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Pic: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

First Minister Arlene Foster, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Simon Byrne and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Pic: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

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Dr Tom Black

Dr Tom Black

First Minister Arlene Foster, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Simon Byrne and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. Pic: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

The coronavirus death toll in Northern Ireland is probably higher than the official figure of 82, Stormont ministers have admitted.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill was commenting on the fact that the statistics only cover deaths in hospital settings.

Yesterday it emerged that a further four patients here have died after contracting the coronavirus.

It brings the total number of deaths associated with Covid-19 here to 82.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) also confirmed another 138 cases of the virus here, the biggest daily increase in cases since the crisis began.

It coincides with an increase in testing and brings the total number of confirmed cases to 1,477.

Meanwhile, there were 500 new confirmed cases of the virus in the Republic, taking the total in the country since the outbreak began to 6,574.

A further 28 patients have died, bringing the total number of deaths associated with Covid-19 to 263.

Earlier a leading doctor claimed the coronavirus death toll in Northern Ireland could be up to 30% higher than the official figures suggest.

The warning came from Dr Tom Black, chairman of the local arm of the British Medical Association after the PHA confirmed that it only records deaths where the patient has tested positive for coronavirus within the past 28 days.

Dr Black said the daily figures would remain a guide until wider testing measures were introduced.

"Overall, we aren't recording all Covid deaths at the moment and the difference is probably between 20 and 30%," he explained.

At yesterday's daily Stormont briefing, Mrs O'Neill was asked about deaths from coronavirus that might have occurred in care home settings.

"I think that it's fair to say, given how the stats are recorded now, the number of deaths recorded probably doesn't reflect all those people out there who have died with Covid-19," the Sinn Fein vice-president said.

"That is being looked at now and we hope to be able to have a fuller picture over the course of the days ahead," Mrs O'Neill added.

First Minister Arlene Foster stressed that most people who die from coronavirus die in hospital. "I understand that we are still only registering the deaths in hospitals in connection with Covid-19," she said.

"Most people who pass away with Covid-19, as I understand it, are taken to hospital. Either they are on a ventilator or they are in intensive care before they pass away."

The DUP leader reiterated that testing and isolation were key to success in defeating the virus.

"There has been progress made, it is nowhere near where it needs to be but it is moving in the right direction."

She said other front line services also needed to be protected.

"I want us to get to the stage where we rapidly increase testing."

Belfast Telegraph