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Third of coronavirus-related deaths occur in care homes, figures suggest

The Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (NISRA) publishes a weekly record of Covid-19 related deaths.

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A tribute to the NHS on Belfast’s Falls Road (Niall Carson/PA)

A tribute to the NHS on Belfast’s Falls Road (Niall Carson/PA)

A tribute to the NHS on Belfast’s Falls Road (Niall Carson/PA)

A third of coronavirus-related deaths are happening in care homes, new figures have indicated.

The latest weekly update from the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (NISRA) records 276 deaths involving Covid-19 up to April 17.

Of these, 60.1% occurred in hospitals, 33.7% in care homes, 5.1% at private addresses and 1.1% at hospices.

The 96 deaths in care homes and hospices involved 44 separate establishments.

Age NI director Paschal McKeown expressed “deep concern”, saying: “Age NI urges the minister and the department, as a matter of urgency, to focus attention and resources so that care homes and other community care services are able to respond to the serious impact of the pandemic today, and for the weeks and months ahead.

“We are calling for assurances that older people can access the treatment and care they need, including Covid-19 interventions.

“It is imperative that care home and community services are provided with PPE, testing arrangements and additional staff so they so they can continue to provide safe, compassionate care.

“It is important we leave no-one behind in this pandemic and that future decisions on responding to Covid-19 act on what the NISRA statistics are telling us.”

The NISRA total figures are higher than the number of deaths reported daily by the Public Health Agency (PHA), which by April 17 had reached 212.

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Council-run graveyards were closed last month (Niall Carson/PA)

Council-run graveyards were closed last month (Niall Carson/PA)

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Council-run graveyards were closed last month (Niall Carson/PA)

The PHA figures are based on patients who had previously tested positive for the virus, whereas NISRA figures are based on the information entered on death certificates, filled out by medical professionals.

Comparatively the total number of total deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending April 17 was 424. The figure is 11 fewer than the previous week but 134 more than the five year average of 290.

Meanwhile the Northern Ireland Executive is later set to discuss the reopening of graveyards which were closed amid social distancing rules.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald hinted that her party may drop its opposition to the reopenings.

Council-run graveyards were closed last month as part of the coronavirus movement restrictions, but there have been mounting calls to reopen them, with bereaved relatives highlighting the mental anguish of being prevented from visiting the graves of loved ones.

While the DUP and UUP back the reopening, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party have opposed the move amid concerns about the potential health impacts of loosening one of the lockdown measures.

Cemeteries remain open in the Irish Republic.

PA