The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has been monitoring funeral notice website Rip.ie in a bid to locate and identify any previously un-notified incidences of Covid-19 in Ireland.
As part of its contribution to the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET) recent paper comparing mortality rates from the coronavirus in Ireland and other countries, HIQA stated that its analysis of the website had indicated “there is no ‘pocket’ of unknown undocumented mortality”.
NPHET said that its own analysis had concluded that Ireland has “robust processes” in place for the reporting of all fatalities related to Covid-19, and had “gone further” than many comparable countries in its approach.
The recording of deaths from the disease differs greatly around the world, with Ireland’s nearest jurisdiction, the UK, managing those statistics in a fundamentally different manner, with only deaths in hospital settings being recorded - despite the fact that mortality in residential care settings has been one of the biggest contributors to the global toll.
Ireland, by contrast, while exhibiting a major problem with the illness in nursing homes and similar settings, elected to record all such fatalities from the beginning of the crisis, and undertook a mortality census in mid-April in order to ascertain how great an impact the outbreak of Covid-19 had had on residential care institutions.
NPHET said that the State’s reporting of the illness “gives a complete picture of the mortality rates”. It said that HIQA’s analysis had shown that “excess mortality is largely explained by Covid-19”.
At a NPHET meeting in mid-May, meanwhile, the view was expressed that making the wearing of masks mandatory in public here would serve to “stigmatise” people who either choose not to wear a mask, or who cannot wear one.
The issue of whether or not to introduce regulations mandating the wearing of masks was one under consideration by the emergency team from the beginning of the pandemic crisis, but one on which it consistently declined to act, citing the fact that masks, handled incorrectly, risk spreading the disease further instead of preventing same.
In the end, NPHET recommended, as part of its guidelines for entering phase one of the easing of lockdown restrictions on May 18, that facial coverings should be worn in instances where social distancing is not easily accomplished - such as in shops or on public transport.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that NPHET recently discussed its concerns over the mandatory testing of close contacts of confirmed cases of the virus, a policy first enacted two weeks ago.
It heard that such contacts may derive “inappropriate assurance” from having taken a test and use same as a reason to avoid a period of self isolation, in particular any "fatigued" individuals who may have already undergone such quarantines earlier in the pandemic.
The HSE last week revealed that just 12% of close contacts had tested positive for the virus since the policy was introduced, although 73% of them had presented as being asymptomatic.
Close contacts are currently tested twice - once having been identified, and again seven days after their last known contact with the confirmed case.