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Opinion: Full coronavirus death toll must be disclosed

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Pressure is growing on the Northern Ireland executive to ensure we are being given the full picture in relation how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting our care homes.

Every day the Public Health Agency publishes the number of people who test positive for Covid-19 in the north as well as the tragic toll of death.

Yesterday, we were told that ten more people had sadly lost their lives taking the overall total for Northern Ireland to 134. Each and every one of those deaths is an absolute tragedy for their families and a painful loss that is difficult to bear.

But, of course, these figures relate only to deaths in hospital, not those who have died in a nursing home or indeed in their own homes, as a result of coronavirus.

While we must recognise that our healthcare systems are under immense strain at this time, it is important that not only is every death of suspected or confirmed Covid-19 counted but the full extent of this disease in the wider community should be known.

This is information that should be made available in the here and now and not at some point further down the line.

At present, only limited details are being provided in the north.

Last week, health minister Robin Swann disclosed that 20 care homes were affected by coronavirus, yesterday he updated that figure to 32.

This paper has revealed that a care home in north Belfast has lost six residents to the virus while another in the west of the city has lost four residents with a further death suspected as coronavirus.

Some of these deaths have been included in the official daily figures but others have not.

The department of health said the process for registering deaths in the community takes a number of days and involves a doctor completing a death certificate and then the death being registered by the General Register Office and the Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency.

While acknowledging the difficulties, we should be able to find a way to provide regular updates on the impact of Covid-19 in the community.

We would urge the minister to make sure that the public is being told the true number of deaths from this terrible disease.

 

 

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