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Language of death has changed due to Covid - but toll 'may be overstated'

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(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

The traditional Irish death notice, one of the most-read daily newspaper columns, has changed forever under Covid-19 lockdown, with terms such as 'broadcast' and 'webcam' now common to describe the conduct of funerals.

The sombre images of loved ones being buried under strict Covid-19 rules are reflected in stark death notices since the beginning of the pandemic, a new analysis has revealed.

It comes as a report suggests Ireland's official death toll from Covid-19 may have been overstated.

Death notices on Rip.ie showed not only the impact Covid-19 has had on death trends in Ireland but also the way in which it has shaped behaviour in the changing language used in death notices, the new report from the Central Statistics Office revealed.

"References to 'private' gatherings increased dramatically from March onwards," the report noted.

"The term 'broadcast' was used once between October 2019 and February 2020 but was mentioned more than 100 times between March and May 2020.

"'Webcam' was used less than 30 times in the five months up to the end of February 2020, but was included nearly 500 times between March and May."

The report said there was a pronounced increase in death notices placed in April, with the numbers rising from 2,861 in March to 3,502 in April before falling to 2,635 in May.

"Based on the analysis of thousands of death notices, excess mortality is estimated at 1,072 - these are deaths above those likely to be experienced under normal circumstances."

It noted a significant rise in death notices related to residential facilities, including nursing homes - increasing to 1,237 in April from 722 in March.

"Dublin and surrounding counties were heavily impacted, with notices for Dublin increasing from 763 in March to 1,103 in April, while there were also rises in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan."

It follows a separate report from the watchdog Hiqa which suggested that Ireland's official death toll from Covid-19 may have been overstated.

It said between 1,100 and 1,200 more deaths than would have been expected based on historical patterns occurred between March 11 and June 16.

However, the official number of people reported to have died from Covid-19 during that period has been put at 1,709.

Ireland counts deaths in people with laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 as well as those whose deaths were probably or possibly caused by the virus.

Hiqa's Dr Conor Teljeur, said: "Based on an analysis of the death notices reported on RIP.ie since 2010, there is clear evidence of excess deaths occurring since the first reported death due to Covid-19 [here].

"There were about 1,100 to 1,200 more deaths than we would expect based on historical patterns: a 13pc increase between March 11 to June 16.

"However, the number of excess deaths is substantially less than the reported 1,709 Covid-19-related deaths over the same period."

This could be due to the inclusion within official figures of people who were infected with the virus at the time of death who already had pre-existing illnesses and whose cause of death may have been predominantly due to other factors.

Some of those who were reported to have died from the virus were already frail and close to the end of life or had underlying illnesses. Covid-19 may have hastened their deaths.

Commenting on the report, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said it shows Covid-19 deaths have been comprehensively recorded, including people suspected of having the virus.

Irish Independent


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