As many as 1,000 more people died in Ireland from causes associated with Covid-19 than had previously been recognised, data published by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests.
The WHO report estimates there were almost 3,000 excess deaths in Ireland during the pandemic – a greater figure than that recorded in previous studies.
A Health Information and Quality Assurance (Hiqa) study published last month put the excess death total at 2,019, while a study in The Lancet medical journal published last March put the total at 1,170.
Excess deaths is the difference between the number of recorded deaths from all causes and the number expected based on past trends.
On a global level, the WHO said there were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with Covid-19 by the end of 2021.
The official count directly attributable to Covid-19 and reported to the WHO over the two years was only about a third of this – at 5.4 million.
The statistics analyze the mean number of expected deaths and estimated deaths from all causes, not just Covid itself, for 2020 and 2021.
In Ireland, 2,920 deaths were classified by the WHO as excess deaths from all causes but associated with Covid-19.
According to the organisation, official Covid data reported to it generally under-estimates the current situation for various reasons.
“[Statistics can] miss those who died without testing, they are contingent on the country correctly defining Covid as the cause of death and they miss the increases in other deaths that are related to the pandemic leading to overwhelmed health systems or patients avoiding care,” it said.
In Ireland, total expected deaths over the two-year period stood at 63,378, and this compared with an estimated death toll for the period of 66,298. Mean numbers show greater excess among women (1,599) than men (1,321).
The rates increased significantly in 2021 and grew in line with age groups. For instance, there were 654 excess deaths for women over the age of 80, compared with just one for those under the age of 40.
Regarding the global picture, the WHO said almost half of the deaths previously uncounted were in India. The report suggests 4.7 million people died there as a result of the pandemic, while the Indian government put its death toll at about 480,000.
On Thursday, the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) was told that Covid deaths were continuing “under the radar”.
Orla Hegarty, director of the School of Architecture Planning & Environmental Policy at UCD, said she was concerned that “preventable deaths” were not being stopped.
“Currently there are 239 outbreaks in nursing homes,” she said, adding the death toll from Covid was five times that of stroke or breast cancer, seven times the rate of suicide, and 25 times that of road crashes.