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Health department blames 'logistical issues' for coronavirus statistics dashboard failure

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Health Minister Robin Swann speaking at Stormont yesterday

Health Minister Robin Swann speaking at Stormont yesterday

PA

Health Minister Robin Swann speaking at Stormont yesterday

The Department of Health has blamed logistical issues for the suspension of its digital dashboard of statistics relating to the coronavirus outbreak in Northern Ireland.

The dashboard, which was launched last Sunday, April 19, was to provide the public with a "comprehensive picture of the effects" of the virus, health officials said.

But it's been out of action since Tuesday afternoon despite the department saying it would be updated daily and feature information on hospital admissions and discharges, details of coronavirus cases and deaths by age and gender, as well as bed and ICU occupancy.

It was also to provide statistics on outbreaks in care settings and a geographical breakdown of cases by local government district, health trust and hospital.

In a statement on Friday, the Department of Health said it would be providing the daily update on key Covid-19 statistics, which would also be posted online. .

A spokesperson said: "The Departmental statistical dashboard remains offline at present due to ongoing logistical issues."

In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Health confirmed that figures presented in the dashboard earlier that day were incorrect.

A spokesperson said: "The report has been temporarily suspended until details can be verified. The Department apologises for any inconvenience caused."

The Public Health Agency (PHA) was asked for a comment on the issue and said it was a matter for the Department of Health. It had been providing data up until last Sunday, April 19. It now diverts people to the Department of Health for the latest update on statistics.

Sources said an "administrative error" was to blame.

Alliance Party health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw called for the dashboard to be restored.

"In the interests of transparency it is essential to restore the dashboard so that everyone can get a clear picture of how the virus and the Health Service's response to it is progressing. It was a very useful tool for generating public confidence in our decision makers, and it is important we have it back operating imminently.

"However, our prime focus must remain absolutely on saving lives and protecting frontline health workers," she said.

Earlier this week the department had to revise the number of Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday, eight more deaths were confirmed over the previous 24 hours. However another 26 deaths were added to the official record which had not been previously reported.

Only one Covid-19 death was confirmed on Sunday, prompting Health Minister Robin Swann to request an investigation.

The death toll later rose by 34 on Wednesday from the 216 figure reported the previous day.

Mr Swann later said due to the length of time it takes to register a death, there had been a delay in some deaths being reported.

"It's not that the deaths were never going to be reported, but it's the timeline," he said.

"I appreciate that this latest total will cause some alarm, given the scale of the increase from yesterday.

"These daily figures are compiled for surveillance purposes to help us track the virus and keep the public as informed as possible."

He said daily figures would always be subject to some degree of revision due to deaths being officially recorded at different times in busy hospitals.

Mr Swann went on to say it was vital the public is kept well-informed, saying his department had launched a Covid-19 NI app and were planning further digital initiatives.

"The entire HSC system has worked very hard to provide vital information and advice online - both on social media on websites," he said.

Belfast Telegraph