The death toll from Covid-19 across Ireland reached more than 1,200 last night as the Republic included cases where a doctor deemed it “likely” that a patient would have died from the virus.
Confusion remains over the magnitude of deaths reported in the north, with two sets of figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Health and a government agency.
Department officials have confirmed 15 other hospital deaths from coronavirus, bringing the total to 278 in Northern Ireland.
However, weekly data released by the Northern Ireland Research and Statistical Agency (NISRA) showed that 276 deaths involving Covid-19 were recorded until April 17 – with a third occurring in nursing homes.
NISRA figures are based on information on death certificates completed by health professionals, while those of the department – which took over from the Public Health Agency in the publication of data – are based in patients who had previously tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this week, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Michael McBride, explained the difficulties in providing a “true reflection” of the death toll due to the “built-in delay” in the death registration process.
Dr. McBride appeared with his British counterparts yesterday to testify before a committee in Westminster about their response to the crisis.
The Belfast doctor said he was the longest of the four officers – almost 14 years – but that he felt “much longer in the past two months” because of the stress of the pandemic.
Across the UK, the total death toll approached 20,000 yesterday, while an additional 684 deaths have been confirmed.
Meanwhile, the Republic’s chief executive officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, confirmed at the Dublin daily briefing that Covid-19 had killed 37 people.
A total of 1,014 patients died in the south, including 185 “probable deaths”.
The Health Protection Surveillance Center has said that a likely death is a death where no laboratory test has been done, but where a doctor believes that death is associated with Covid-19.
Dr. Holohan also revealed that a new case definition for testing will be introduced early next week – if you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19 (fever, shortness of breath), you can ask the doctor for a test. generalist, but priority will be given to vulnerable people.
The north is also returning to improved community testing and looking for contracts after following Whitehall’s example and abandoning the strategy last month.
A&E hospital services, nursing homes, general medical centers and essential workers in the private sector will be tested for coronavirus while a new pilot contract finding program takes effect next week.
During yesterday’s briefings north and south of the border, Prime Minister Arlene Foster and Dr. Holohan were asked about comments by US President Donald Trump who suggested that an injection of disinfectant could be a cure for coronavirus.
Foster said the remarks were “extraordinary”, while the Republic’s CMO said the idea was “dangerous and dangerous”, adding: “He is not a doctor”.
Trump then said he was “sarcastic.”
In a separate development, the Communities Department said last night that it had “been enormously successful” in delivering nearly 31,000 food parcels to people in need during the foreclosure.
The weekly program started earlier this month and is aimed at the most vulnerable, with volunteers dropping boxes at the doors.
A spokesperson said that when the program started, it was expected that “about 10,400 food parcels would be needed, but that due to the current situation, the department had delivered thousands more.”