Dramatic fall in NI care home coronavirus deaths revealed

The dramatic fall in the number of coronavirus-linked deaths in Northern Ireland care homes since 2020 has been revealed in a News Letter analysis of official statistics.

By Niall Deeney
Sunday, 17th April 2022, 5:58 pm
NISRA. Photo by Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
NISRA. Photo by Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

There were over 600 coronavirus-linked deaths in care homes in 2020 – around a third of the total recorded by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) in the first year of the pandemic.

But in the 15-and-a-half months since January 1 last year, there have been just 359 fatalities linked with coronavirus in care homes recorded by Nisra.

In fact, there were almost as many coronavirus deaths recorded by Nisra in care homes between March and May 2020 than there have been in the entirety of 2021 and the first part of 2022.

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Earlier this year, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland Eddie Lynch stressed – amid a record number of coronavirus outbreaks in care homes – that vaccination efforts and infection control measures meant fewer care home residents were becoming seriously ill as a result of the wave of infections.

Mr Lynch, who has repeatedly called for a public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in care homes, said in January that it was “reassuring that reports are showing that very few residents are becoming seriously ill” despite the high number of infections.

Now, those reports have been borne out by the statistics published by Nisra.

By April 8, the agency had recorded a total of 966 deaths linked with coronavirus in care homes – 21.5% of the total of 4,503 Covid-linked deaths recorded.

By January 1 last year, the figure for care home fatalities was 607 – meaning 359 have been recorded since that date.

The statistics also reveal that the disproportionate way care homes were impacted by coronavirus during the earliest stages of the pandemic has been lessened.

By the end of May 2020, Nisra had recorded 328 care home fatalities linked with the virus in care homes – a period of less than three months from confirmation of Northern Ireland’s first coronavirus death on March 19.

Nisra’s statistics are published on a weekly basis, and record each instance where coronavirus was listed by medical professionals as an underlying cause on a death certificate.

The figures differ from those published by the Department of Health, who record only deaths where a patient had tested positive for the virus and passed away within 28 days.