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COVID-19 related deaths: Northern Ireland

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Latest figures published today by NISRA show that of the 157 total deaths involving COVID-19, occurring up to 10th April 2020, 109 (69%) occurred in hospital, 41 (26%) occurred in care homes and hospices and 7 (4%) occurred at private addresses. The 41 deaths in care homes and hospices involved 23 separate establishments.

There were 435 deaths registered by the General Register Office in Northern Ireland during the week ending 10th April 2020, 1 more than in week 13, and 140 more than the five-year average of 295. Seventy-six (17.5%) of these deaths mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate, bringing the total number of COVID-19 related deaths registered in the calendar year 2020 to 141.

However, because of the rapidly changing situation, the report also provides provisional, updated totals of deaths occurring (based on date of death) up to 10th April, taking account of the latest available death registrations up to 15 April 2020. On this basis:

• There were 157 deaths mentioning COVID-19 on the death certificate that occurred in total, up to 10th April but were registered up to 15th April.

• The comparative number of death notifications reported by the Public Health Agency (PHA) to 10th April was 118.

There have been 4,821 deaths registered in the year-to-date, 29.2% of which (1,410) were classified as ‘respiratory’. The number and proportion of respiratory deaths is lower in the year-to-date than the five‑year average of 1,531 and 31.9%.

Differences between NISRA’s death registration statistics and the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Daily Surveillance bulletins are as follows:

– The daily Northern Ireland Government updates (PHA’s COVID-19 Surveillance Bulletin) provided by the Public Health Agency (PHA) count the number of deaths reported to the PHA where the deceased had a positive test for COVID-19 and died within 28 days, whether or not COVID-19 was the cause of death. PHA figures may not capture all deaths that occur outside hospital. These data are important because they are available earlier, and therefore give a quicker indication of what is happening day by day and are broadly comparable with the figures released daily in other parts of the UK. PHA figures reported 118 deaths associated with COVID-19 by 10th April 2020.

– NISRA weekly provisional death statistics, which are based on death registration information collected by the General Register Office, count all deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate by the doctor who certified the death, whether or not COVID-19 was the primary underlying cause of death. The figures include cases where the doctor noted that there was suspected or probable coronavirus infection involved in the death. As a result the weekly totals will usually be higher than the relevant daily figures – because the PHA daily updates only include those who have tested positive for the virus. The NISRA figures also include all deaths that occur outside hospital. They are comparable with weekly statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics and National Records Scotland. NISRA figures published today show the total number of COVID-19 related deaths registered by 10th April 2020 was 141. Deaths statistics based on date of registration will be subject to only minimal change.

– However, by analysing the registration based data using the date the death occurred (rather than the date of subsequent registration with the General Register Office), the statistics show that 157 deaths associated with COVID-19 had occurred by 10th April. This figure is based on deaths registered up to and including 15th April 2020. This is the most appropriate figure to use to understand additional deaths beyond those reported via the daily PHA surveillance reports. However it is also subject to ongoing change as not all deaths which occurred by 10th April will have been registered at the time of publishing these statistics.

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