Counting ‘Every Death’ That ‘Involves A Positive COVID-19 Test’


Department of Health’s Covid-19 Health Surveillance Monitor as of yesterday; Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan giving his nightly Covid-19 briefing yesterday evening

Yesterday evening.

The Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan gave his nightly Covid-19 briefing to journalists, saying:

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, again thank you for being with us.

“Today we’re reporting to you that we have diagnosed an additional 500 – five, zero, zero – cases of Covid-19 bringing the number confirmed in this country to 6,574. And there have been an addition 28 deaths, bringing our total number of deaths to 263.

“Of those 28 deaths, 13 of them were males, 15 of them are females, and 19 of them, we have reports of an underlying medical condition.”

How are Covid-19 deaths in the Republic of Ireland calculated and recorded?

A Department of Health spokeswoman said:

“We count any death that involves a positive COVID-19 test, and we also include post-mortem positive COVID-19 tests.”

Separately, a spokeswoman from the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland, when asked the same question, said:

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.

“This reporting process allows a “real time” daily update of trends in COVID -19 deaths within each trust area. In this pandemic, public health professionals, policy makers and the public value an up to date, daily record of the number of deaths associated with COVID 19.”

The spokeswoman also confirmed that, like the Republic of Ireland, Northern Irish authorities also include the deaths of people whose remains test positive in a post-mortem.

View the Department of Healths’ Covid-19 dashboard here

Related: Coronavirus: Why death and mortality rates differ (BBC)

14 thoughts on “Counting ‘Every Death’ That ‘Involves A Positive COVID-19 Test’

  1. Brother Barnabas

    the figures mean something between nothing and everything – and whatever you want them to mean

    if underlying health conditions, theres a reasonable argument that the death should not be counted as being down to covid

    1. Bodger

      Brother, if someone with the lurgy is murdered will the killer get off? Asking for a friend.

      1. Brother Barnabas


        (do we know how common respiratory infections are in elder deaths at the best of times? anecdotally, “very common”. but we dont record it as a cause so we’ll never, ever know. ah well, stay home, wash your hands and dont pick your nose)

        1. bisted

          …so…if someone top-to-toe in PPE…went into a private hospital room in a random hospital and stuck an ice pick in a covid-19 patients head…it would be recorded as a covid death rather than an assasination…speculating for a friend…

    2. Donnchadh

      Can anyone recommend a good discussion of the medical science on causes of death? The distinction between ‘She died of such-and-such’ and ‘She had such-and-such, and she died’ is going to be clear in some cases, but I suspect it often won’t be. For example, if someone died because their heart stopped, but they had three separate conditions each of which significantly raises the chances of heart failure, what ought we say they died of?

      Likewise with covid-19. It’s not going to have played a causal role in every death being counted, but it may well play some role in most cases, particularly those cases where the immediate cause of death is to do with the respiratory system.

      1. some old queen

        Is it not possible to enter more than one death cert cause? That way it could accommodate all the factors in a comorbidity. Outside of autopsies, the cause is usually at the discretion of the doctor- taking into account underlying medical conditions of course.

        There are claims being made in the US that as CoVid-19 receives an addition payment from government, figures may be inflated- I wonder if such payments are made to private hospitals here?

        1. Donnchadh

          I’m sure it is possible to enter more than one cause of death. The question then is this: if a patient has a condition or disease which increases the chances of her dying because of, e.g., problems in her respiratory system, and she dies of such problems, is it right to assume that the condition or disease was a cause of death?

          If the answer is ‘Yes’, then the difference between ‘died of x’ and ‘died with x’ will become moot, in a great many cases at least.

          1. some old queen

            Ok we are getting into code classifications here but let’s take my father for example.

            He had a brain aneurysm. brain surgery, a stroke, cancer of the prostrate, a bleeding ulcer, thrombosis in one leg and a couple of heart attacks. Now it was the final heart attack which took him and that was what went on the death cert but we knew it really was a list as long as your arm.

            This is different because it is an infectious disease where the numbers really do matter but in the case of comorbidity- it is near impossible to tell. I would think that a graded scale would be best- taking into account weighted age and underlying conditions like existing respiratory issues, diabetes etc but that is an ideal world.

            When you have places like NYC now actively practising wartime medicine, we just have to try to trust the authorities which is difficult- when- medical staff in Cavan were recently appealing to local businesses for PPE on Facebook.

  2. Some old queen

    So basically that means all Deaths WITH CoVid-19 rather than OF CoVid-19.

    On a positive note: not one non-binary person has been infected- they must be immune so.

    1. MaryLou's ArmaLite

      Kinda explains of high death rate compared to other countries.

      The WHO should have guidance on what is a Covid19 death and what is not, they have been quite poor in this whole episode.

  3. Zaccone

    Its a pretty ridiculous way of measuring things. If someone dies of a heart attack while having a mild case of corona they’ll be recorded as a corona caused death. When they very obviously aren’t.

  4. Wry Vita

    Do you remember that oul book we had in TCD social studies – “How to lie with Statistics”? Who knew it wasn’t fiction.

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