Northern Ireland’s coronavirus death toll is around a third higher than previously reported, official statisticians have confirmed.
A total of 157 fatalities involving Covid-19 have been recorded on death certificates up to April 10, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said.
That represents an increase of 39 on the 118 deaths reported by the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency (PHA) on that day.
NISRA has this morning released provisional, weekly statistics on the number of deaths in NI. The latest figures show that 157 COVID-19 deaths occurred up to 10th April. Of these, 109 (69%) occurred in hospital and 41 (26%) in a care home or hospice. https://t.co/KmdVrvPf6p pic.twitter.com/NzziYnqhGv— NISRA (@NISRA) April 17, 2020
The disparity is due to differences in how the statistics are gathered.
The PHA records the deaths of people who had tested positive for coronavirus, most of which occurred in hospital.
The Nisra figures include cases where Covid 19 was recorded as a suspected factor and account for deaths outside a hospital setting, such as in nursing homes or in a domestic setting.
Nisra uses the findings of death certificates filled out and registered by medical professionals.
On Friday, the PHA reported the deaths of a further 18 people who had tested positive for Covid-19, taking the PHA’s death toll to 176.
The Nisra total for the corresponding time period will not be available until next week, as deaths in the community take longer to register.
It is likely to indicate that there have been significantly more than 176 deaths in the outbreak so far.
Of the 157 deaths recorded by Nisra up to April 10, more than two-thirds of deaths, 109, happened in hospital.
Another 41 occurred in care homes and hospices, around a quarter.
Those involved 23 separate establishments.
The remaining seven happened in people’s own homes.
Nisra’s figures show the majority of deaths – 98 – involved those aged 75 or older.
It said the overall number of deaths was higher than average for this time of year when compared to the last five years.
The proportion of respiratory deaths remains below the five-year average.
Stormont’s First Minister Arlene Foster said the information provides a fuller picture of the infection’s course.
She added: “It is also extremely sad as we learn that Covid-19 has robbed many more families of their loved ones.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “We know that older people are particularly susceptible to the devastating effects of Covid-19, and our care homes are very vulnerable at this time.”
Concerns have been expressed by staff and relatives of residents about the situation in care homes.
Stormont’s health minister Robin Swann has said he wants to reassure people that relatives are receiving the support and care they need there.
He said: “Today’s report, which indicates that a further 39 deaths were connected to Covid-19 up to 10 April, while not unexpected, is truly sobering.
“It reflects the cruel and heart-breaking reality of the situation we are faced with.”
Trade union Unison said its members who work in care homes are reporting inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment.
Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: “Recording these deaths is important, but preventing them is absolutely vital.
“We need answers as to how health authorities are going to protect vulnerable people in care homes, residential homes and in the community.
“Our members have a right to know what plan there is to increase testing, contact tracing and ensure the right methods are used to self-isolate those known or suspected cases.”