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Frontline under pressure as daily death rate on rise

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Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan at a media update in Dublin

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan at a media update in Dublin

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan at a media update in Dublin

Patients and doctors in St Columcille's hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, have been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus.

Two wards are understood to have been affected.

It follows confirmation that doctors from Beaumont Hospital in Dublin are being sent to Cavan Hospital, which has been hit by a major Covid-19 outbreak.

Two medical wards in Cavan Hospital were closed to admissions earlier this week due to the outbreak.

Positive

The hospital has 38 patients positive for the virus and 87 in all have been confirmed as having the infection, it was reported.

At least 70 doctors and nurses have been confirmed as having the virus and many others have had to self isolate.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "Cavan General Hospital has plans in place to manage additional demands due to Covid-19.

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St Columcille’s hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, has been hit by an outbreak

St Columcille’s hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, has been hit by an outbreak

St Columcille’s hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, has been hit by an outbreak

"The hospital has areas designated for care of patients with Covid-19, patients who are awaiting diagnosis and patients who are not. There is capacity available for all these patients.

"In January 2020, prior to Covid-19, the absenteeism rate was 5.6pc. Presently it is 12.2pc. The hospital continues to have a number of staff off at present."

Doctors' representative bodies expressed concern at the lack of protective equipment, such as goggles and masks, for staff examining patients.

The average daily number of death notices posted on RIP.ie is higher than for the same weeks in recent years, according to analysis by University College Cork economist Seamus Coffey.

It comes against a background of debate about how many coronavirus deaths are fully reflected in the official figures.

"On Saturday, the seven-day average for 2020 was around 23 notices a day higher than the average for the equivalent periods in 2016-20," Mr Coffey said.

"This has risen rapidly and by Wednesday last was around 45 higher than the 2016-19 average. This seems to be greater than official Covid-19 mortality figures."

He said it was too early to draw any firm conclusions but it was a "useful snapshot."

A similar exercise was recently carried out by the Department of Public Health at UCD.

Dr Jack Lambert, infectious-diseases consultant in the Mater Hospital, has previously pointed to the limitations of testing for not picking up more people who have the virus.

Mr Coffey said when the RIP.ie notices were broken down regionally, it appeared the increase in Dublin has been particularly high.

"The figures suggest that notices posted for counties outside Dublin are around 35pc above the norm - 95 versus 70.

"For Dublin it appears the increase is 100pc - 40 versus 20.

"Why might the increase in postings be greater than the official Covid-19 figures? It could be a behavioural change so that a larger share of deaths have postings.

"It could be more Covid-19 related deaths than covered by official figures.

"There could be an increase in non-Covid-19 related deaths."

Measure

The real measure of excess mortality during this time will be in figures from the Central Statistics Office, which will not be published until later this year.

They will take into account all deaths registered.

It can take several months to register a death so there is a time lag before all statistics are available to allow for a proper comparison.

The official death toll from the coronavirus was 263 after another 28 people were notified as having passed away yesterday.

Most of the deaths from the virus so far have been in men and the median age of those who died yesterday was 81.

Most people are dying in hospital and it is unclear how many people have passed away in nursing homes.