COVID-19 deaths recorded in Northern Ireland to date do not reflect the actual number of fatalities.
As of yesterday, testing has resulted in 89 new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland to 1,806. To date, 118 people who tested positive have sadly died.
However, the accuracy of those figures has been disputed by experts, including NI’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride who said only hospital deaths are being recorded but it is likely there are unrecorded deaths in the community.
That includes people dying of COVID-19 in care homes.
It is also possible that people are dying with COVID-19 but not as a consequence of COVID-19, Dr McBride said, and a clearer picture will only emerge in the months ahead.
When asked if data in Northern Ireland only takes account of hospital deaths, the PHA stated that COVID-19 Daily Surveillance Bulletin records deaths reported to the PHA by Health and Social Care Trusts but these patients must test positive for COVID-19.
Therefore, if an individual is not tested they will not be included amongst current figures. Testing is currently limited to patients who are being admitted to hospital and some health care workers.
A PHA spokesperson explained: “Deaths are recorded of patients who have died within 28 days of a positive test result, whether or not COVID-19 was the cause of death. By definition therefore, deaths where tests were not taken will not be included.
“The deaths may have taken place in a hospital setting, or in the community or a care home, but must have been reported to PHA by the Health and Social Care Trust to be included in the report.”
In terms of recording the number of deaths in care homes and locations of those deaths a PHA spokesperson said: “Currently this information is not collated in the current surveillance report, but as this is an emerging pandemic the systems used will constantly evolve and the complexity of the analysis will increase.”
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