Ireland experienced no "excess mortality" in May
Excess mortality is believed to be a more accurate way of determining the effect of Covid-19 on a country's death rate.
Dr Tony Holohan said this evening that Ireland experienced no "excess mortality" in May, in contrast to many other European countries.
Excess mortality is a method of comparing the amount of deaths in a country in a time period, relative to the number of deaths experienced in the same period over a number of other years.
Effectively, it shows how many more deaths Ireland has experienced in 2020 so far compared to similar periods in recent years, in an effort to determine the rise in deaths associated with Covid-19. A similar method is used to determine death rates from flu outbreaks in winter months.
Dr Holohan outlined a number of ways in which the data is obtained, including the General Register Office adopting an online method for reporting deaths (rather than in person), writing to funeral directors and clinicians to encourage early reporting of Covid-related deaths and an analysis of RIP.ie figures, which Dr Holohan says captures in excess of 98% of deaths in the Republic of Ireland.
It is believed that excess mortality rate is a more accurate way of comparing death rates across countries, particularly as it is standardised across Europe. When simply comparing the number of deaths relative to the population of countries, it is not taken into account how different countries are reporting Covid-19 deaths in different ways. For example, Ireland reports both confirmed Covid-19 deaths and "probable" deaths from the virus;
"We report, in line with the WHO and ECDC guidance, all laboratory-confirmed cases and all probable deaths. In other words, any time there is a death and a positive laboratory test, we report that. And we also report, where there isn’t a positive test, where a doctor has said he or she believes there is an association and certified that as part of the cause of death", Dr Holohan said
"Many countries don’t report both of those two things. We also report those deaths irrespective of where they occur", he continued.
In the analysis, Dr Holohan confirmed that after a spike in excess mortality rates early in the pandemic, there was no such rise in the month of May;
"We have had an excess mortality experience in this country. It occurred, for the most part, over the course of the months of March and April. In fact, it reduced back to base line.
"In other words we have seen no excess mortality in this country since the beginning of May. Whereas the excess mortality experience in many other European countries has continued beyond that point."
Dr Holohan also pointed out Ireland's particular challenge in dealing with Covid-19, located so close to the epicentre of the virus which has been in Western Europe for a number of months;
"We don’t think that we’ve had an excess mortality experience relative to other countries in Europe, particularly those who are close to us.
"The epicentre of this infection, as you’ve heard me say before, for along period of time has been in Europe, and in particular in Western Europe, and we’re surrounded by the countries that have had the highest mortality."
Dr Holohan cautioned against premature comparisons between countries in relation to the number of deaths that have occurred due to Covid-19;
"We think there needs to be a sufficient period of time elapsed to properly understand and draw some of the kinds of conclusions that have been drawn."
At this evening's briefing, there were no deaths reported from the virus in the Republic of Ireland, with 18 new confirmed cases here.