Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion of excess care homes deaths in the UK during the early months of the pandemic, research shows.
Half of fatalities with Covid-19 between March and June involved care home residents, the study by academics from the LTCcovid organisation found.
It said: “Northern Ireland had… the lowest level of excess deaths in care homes.”
The study showed a 79% increase in mortality over the pandemic period in English care homes, compared with 62% in Scotland, 66% in Wales, and 46% in Northern Ireland.
The network of academics provides resources to support community and institutional long-term care responses to Covid-19.
Its report added: “Given that, due to the variation in testing procedures and recording of deaths, it will never be possible to unequivocally assign care home deaths during the pandemic to Covid-19 or other causes, the judgment on relative failure or success in handling the pandemic in care homes must ultimately rest with comparative performance in relation to excess deaths.”
Deaths of care home residents represented 2.6% of beds in Northern Ireland.
From last month Stormont committed to regular testing of all residents and staff.
All asymptomatic residents will be tested for Covid-19 every 28 days with all asymptomatic staff tested every 14 days.
The report said: “Doubts remain about the implementation of this ambitious strategy, given reports of limited testing capacity and data gaps across the four nations.
“Alternative approaches based on the rate of infection in the local area and adoption of innovative strategies such as pool testing and saliva-based testing kits should be considered.”
Ministers also bolstered the number of staff with NHS workers as the homes were stretched by the pandemic.
Data on the share of homes reporting at least one suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland show that 37% reported cases.
That compares with two-thirds in Scotland, 44% in England and 33% in Wales.
From March to June, Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 related deaths per 100,000 were the lowest in the UK at 44.
Factors like the relatively rural character of the country compared with England may have contributed.
Since then the rate per 100,000 has risen to the highest in the UK.