Coronavirus: Pro rata, NI has fewer deaths than RoI or GB – but big caveats

Northern Ireland thus far appears to have the lowest rate of deaths per head of population of any nation across the UK and Ireland, research by the Northern Ireland Assembly Library has found.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 9:43 pm
This graphic from the NI Assembly Library depicts the number of deaths per 100,000 people, with the darker colours indicating higher numbers of deaths

However, while that is clear within the UK context where figures are collated using the same methodology, it is difficult to compare Northern Ireland with the Republic and some deaths north of the border are not yet included in the daily statistics being released.

Northern Ireland represents just 1% of all Covid-19 deaths within the UK – just over a third of what the figure would be if the rate of deaths was equal across the UK.

Northern Ireland’s population is 2.8% of the total UK population.

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The information about Northern Ireland having far fewer deaths than in the rest of the UK is perhaps unsurprising, given that the pandemic was slower to reach Northern Ireland. However, the data provides a comparison of the current situation across the UK and Ireland.

The Assembly library is a non-partisan service which is open to all MLAs who want factual research conducted on their behalf and it also proactively does some of its own research on matters of public interest, which is the case with this material.

The research found that – based on the data which has been published by governments – Northern Ireland also has a lower level of deaths from Covid-19 than on the rest of the island of Ireland.

The Assembly Library found that the Republic of Ireland has had 4.8 deaths per 100,000 people, while Northern Ireland has 4.1 deaths per 100,000.

The comparable figures for the rest of the UK are significantly higher, with 11.6 deaths per 100,000 in England, 7.8 in Wales and 5.4 in Scotland.

However, there are several significant caveats to that information.

It is still early in the pandemic. Northern Ireland is by some estimates to be about two or three weeks behind London, meaning that the rate of deaths in Northern Ireland is almost certain to increase significantly over coming weeks while the rate of deaths elsewhere in the UK is expected to fall.

It is also clear that the statistics being published each day almost certainly do not capture every death from Covid-19.

Across the UK, the daily statistics only cover those who have tested positive for Covid-19 – but the criteria for testing means that overwhelmingly that only means those who are admitted to hospital or individuals who are either health workers or their families.

Those who die in other places – such as at home or in care homes – are mostly not included in the daily statistics, but will be included in data to be published at a later date.

The News Letter asked the Republic’s Health Service Executive if its daily data similarly did not include all deaths. At the time of going to press there had been no response.

However, a source with knowledge of how the Republic’s figures are collated said that nursing home deaths “are definitely recorded in the daily figures”.

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