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'Ongoing analysis' into potential under-reporting of deaths in Ireland related to Covid-19

The question of extra deaths in the population as a result of the virus has been raised several times over the past number of weeks.

A Covid-19 testing at the LÉ Samuel Beckett in Dublin.
A Covid-19 testing at the LÉ Samuel Beckett in Dublin.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE HSE HAS said there is an “ongoing analysis” to see if there are potentially more deaths in the population that are not classified as deaths related to Covid-19.

The question of extra deaths in the population as a result of the virus has been raised several times over the past number of weeks.

Posts online which pointed to an increase in death notices on Rip.ie compared to last year that outstripped officially recorded Covid-19 deaths led to questions about whether the true effect of the virus is being recorded.

Asked about this possibility today, HSE officials said public health workers would be analysing trends to see if this was the case. 

“Clearly when we look at the confirmed number of cases we’re looking at lab confirmed cases but part of the work of public health is tracking any other trends we are noticing in the population and that analysis is ongoing now and it’s not complete,” Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer of the HSE said this morning.  

But that will be looking at comparison with deaths last year in nursing home or other settings to see if there are any other trends that will inform the whole, not just the modelling, but how we see the momentum of this virus gathering pace or not. That’s part of ongoing analysis.

Henry said that health officials do not just look at the number of confirmed cases to determine how the coronavirus is operating in the country, also looking at things like admissions to hospitals or ICU.  

He added that, while the number of deaths that are “lab positive” are updated every day, health officials are also taking account of other metrics to monitor the spread of Covid-19.

“In line with not just looking at the number of proven cases that are lab positive, our public health people are also looking at trends in deaths overall comparing this year to last year and that feeds in not just to our intelligence but to any modeling,” Henry said.

So be assured that we are looking at trends beyond just positive tests, but also such as deaths in nursing homes or residential care settings to see if there’s any additional trend.

Speaking more generally about the testing of individuals in nursing homes, Henry said that individuals in nursing homes are tested “if you conform to the case definition as recently amended”.

Anne O’Connor, chief operations officer at the HSE, added that patients in a nursing home will receive treatment in the same way whether they have had a positive test or not. 

“I think it’s important as well, that where we have people who are presenting with symptoms, they are being treated on the basis of clinical diagnosis… for us the priority is to look after people who are sick,” O’Connor said.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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