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Coronavirus: True extent of impact of Covid-19 in NI unknown, says health chairman

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General view of a banner on the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast in support of the NHS and core workers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

General view of a banner on the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast in support of the NHS and core workers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

General view of a banner on the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast in support of the NHS and core workers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

More questions have been raised around the true scale of coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

Six more deaths were announced on Monday, bringing the total here to 124.

Health officials also confirmed a further 76 cases, with the total now standing at 1,882.

However, it is thought that both the official number of deaths and cases linked to Covid-19 have been underestimated.

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Gaps: Colm Gildernew

Gaps: Colm Gildernew

Gaps: Colm Gildernew

Colm Gildernew, who chairs the Stormont health committee, raised concerns over potential gaps in the statistics.

Mr Gildernew said the true scale of the virus' reach here was probably unknown.

On Monday it was announced that the number of deaths in UK hospitals has risen to 11,329 - up by 717 since Sunday.

Thirty-one more people died from Covid-19 in Ireland, bringing the Republic's overall death toll to 365.

The six deaths in Northern Ireland were down from Saturday (15) and Sunday (11). However, experts have warned against comparing short-term trends or day-to-day figures.

While the total number of deaths here is 124, this relates only to people who have tested positive for Covid-19 within the previous 28 days, and who died in hospital.

The number of deaths in care homes is not known.

Last week the chair of the British Medical Authority in Northern Ireland, Dr Tom Black, said the number of deaths here could be 20% or 30% above the official figures.

Dr Connor Bamford, a virologist at Queen's University, has estimated the true number of cases could be over 50,000. Without a widespread testing programme, the full figure will not be known.

Mr Gildernew, a Sinn Fein MLA for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, said it was vital that the official statistics were as accurate as possible.

"The extent of the impact of Covid-19 needs to be fully recorded to be understood and responded to now and in the future," he said.

"The current published data has serious limitations in that it only records those cases and deaths that occur within a hospital setting and where a positive test has been completed."

He added: "Gaps in data between recorded cases and the true number of cases could be detrimental now and in the future with regards to understanding the impact of Covid-19."

The Department of Health said it was working with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), the Public Health Agency and others to ensure that all published statistics "give as full a picture as possible on Covid-19".

Belfast Telegraph