Coronavirus: Covid-19 NI’s second most common cause of death

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The figures indicate that Covid-19 was the cause of death on the majority of death certificates it was mentioned in

Covid-19 was the second most common cause of death in Northern Ireland when lockdown was in full force, according to official records.

In total, 4,684 people died in Northern Ireland between 1 April and 30 June.

Of these deaths, 732 were caused by Covid-19. That’s almost 16% of all deaths in that time.

By comparison, there were 1,177 cancer deaths (25%), while heart disease caused 410 deaths (9%).

The figures are contained in the latest quarterly report on the registration of births, deaths and marriages from government statistics body the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

Extra deaths

Nisra produces these reports four times a year, which allows us to compare causes and rates of deaths to previous years.

Separate figures are published on a regular basis by the Department of Health, however, these mostly refer to hospital deaths.

This latest report focuses on the second quarter (Q2) of 2020 – between 1 April and 30 June.

As it coincides with the lockdown period, it is useful when trying to get a better insight into the effect of the pandemic in Northern Ireland.

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There were almost 1,000 more deaths between April and June than could have been expected

The consistency of the quarterly reports means that it is straightforward to get a five-year average for the number of deaths in any given quarter.

For the five years between 2015 and 2019, the average number of deaths between April and June is 3,736.

It is therefore reasonable to expect around this number of deaths for the same period in 2020.

However, the latest figures show that 4,684 people died in the equivalent April to June period – almost 1,000 more than would be expected.

The vast majority of these extra deaths were because of Covid-19.

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Nisra’s figures also indicate that the vast majority of people who had Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate died from the virus itself, rather than from other medical conditions.

The statistical body has been issuing weekly updates on Covid deaths since the end of March. In these updates, Nisra looks at what a doctor puts on a death certificate.

If Covid-19 is mentioned, it is recorded.

This is a valid way of measuring Covid deaths, but there is always the possibility than a person can die with Covid, but the virus did not actually cause the death.

This latest report is different – it focuses on the cause of death.

When the two methods of counting are compared, it shows that 91% of people who had Covid-19 mentioned on their death certificate actually died from the virus itself.

Figures elsewhere

The statistics agencies in England, Scotland and Wales also usually produce these quarterly bulletins into births, marriages and deaths.

However, the Office of National Statistics is not currently producing quarterly reports, as “due to the ongoing surveillance around the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS is concentrating on weekly and monthly bulletins”.

National Records of Scotland recently published its report for April to June. It shows that 20% of deaths in Scotland were caused by Covid-19 in those three months.

The Central Statistics Office in the Republic of Ireland has not yet issued its report for April to June.

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