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Department of Health to resume publishing Covid-19 details after reprimand


Daily figures on coronavirus deaths and testing are released by the DoH (Ben Birchall/PA)

Daily figures on coronavirus deaths and testing are released by the DoH (Ben Birchall/PA)

Daily figures on coronavirus deaths and testing are released by the DoH (Ben Birchall/PA)

More details about how the coronavirus is impacting Northern Ireland are to be published from Friday after the Department of Health was reprimanded by the UK Statistics Authority over its reporting of Covid-19 figures.

On April 19 the Department of Health released a coronavirus dashboard to display daily statistics, replacing the daily surveillance reports released by the Public Health Agency.

It was to provide the public with a "comprehensive picture of the effects" of the virus, health officials said.

However, the dashboard was suspended two days later on the grounds a figure in it was incorrect.

Since then the department has been releasing less information through its website and social media on a daily basis.

In a letter to Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly, the UK Statistics Authority called for more comprehensive information to be published.

It noted the "serious public concern" over the reporting of Covid-19 statistics in Northern Ireland.

Statistics, it said, should be released in a "transparent, easily accessible and orderly way".

"A news release on the departmental website and Twitter are not sufficient," the department was told.

The department blamed "logistical issues" with the online dashboard. And it is understood officials within the department considered the provision of the stats as a "stopgap" measure to keep the public informed on "key details" as they worked to resolve the issue which took longer than expected.

In response, Dr Eugene Mooney, senior statistician at Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) on behalf of the Department of Health, said it was the intention to release daily information in the form of a "public facing dashboard" beginning on Friday at 2pm each day.

"I recognise that this would be a departure from the normal release practice of the standard publication time of 9.30am but would suggest that by moving to this release time we will be able to provide the latest position on a range of statistics that are of interest to our users," he said.

"It will, for example, allow us to present a range of information reflecting the position in the preceding 24 hours as of 9am each day. It would be my intention to apply the normal pre-release practice.

"Once the dashboard is ‘up and running’ it would be my intention to add further content both to provide a more fuller picture of how the virus continues to effect citizens in Northern Ireland and to reflect user feedback.

"In doing so I will of course pre-announce any changes to the dashboard content so that users are aware of our plans in advance."

As well as the total number of Covid-19 deaths, the dashboard will include positive test results by gender and age group, as well as intensive care beds available and occupied, including the number occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Belfast Telegraph