DUBLIN — Almost half of Ireland’s coronavirus-related fatalities have been in nursing homes, the parliamentary health committee heard on Tuesday.
Health Department official Kathleen MacLellan told members of the Dáil, or parliament, that “1,543 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 in nursing homes, 369 of these in the past month.”
By Tuesday morning Ireland’s Department of Health had reported 3,317 “probable and possible” Covid-related deaths, one-third of which were recorded in January. Covid-19 is the respiratory disease sometimes caused by the novel coronavirus.
Of the almost 200,000 cases of the novel coronavirus reported since the first positive test almost one year ago, more than half were recorded last month, when Ireland was for a time recording the most cases per million of any country in Europe.
4,300 virus cases were reported in nursing homes in January, almost 40 per cent of them among staff.
Of the total Covid-linked deaths in “health service settings,” which includes hospitals, over 80 per cent “occurred in nursing homes,” Yvonne O’Neill, an official with the government’s Health Service Executive, told the committee.
Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, which oversees around 400 of Ireland’s 572 homes, told the committee that although residents are “the most susceptible to the virus,” they had been allocated only 10 per cent of the 77,000 Covid vaccinations administered in Ireland by mid-January.
Concerns have been raised elsewhere about the suitability of some vaccines for older people, with Norwegian and German health officials last month flagging several deaths among already-vaccinated elderly and Germany refusing to allow use of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford among people 65 and older, citing insufficient trial data.
On Monday, the director of a home in Tuam, in the west of Ireland, said 12 of the 49 residents had died in January after testing positive for the virus.
After almost 1,000 nursing home deaths were reported during the pandemic’s first wave, some lawmakers in August called for a public inquiry.
Ireland’s government recently published the report of its inquiry into Mother and Baby Homes, covering over seven decades up to the 1990’s. The government apologized for “unforgivable” treatment of those sent to the facilities. The report, which came about after allegations of unnaccounted-for baby deaths at a home in Tuam, followed several others published in recent years detailing negligence and abuse in institutions.
Ireland’s government has imposed third stay-at-home lockdown, scheduled to run until March 5, with the restrictions assessed as Europe’s strictest according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data.
Similar restrictions are in place in British-run Northern Ireland, where 40 per cent of Covid-related deaths in 2020 were recorded in nursing homes, according to a report published on Monday by the region’s parliamentary health committee.Show