According to new analysis by the Central Statistics Office, there would have been between 900 and 1,200 more people alive in Ireland by October of this year if the Covid-19 pandemic had not occurred. 

That is its estimate of the so-called "excess deaths" that occurred here during the seven months between the start of March and the end of September.

It is substantially lower than the total number of Covid-19 related deaths reported in the official figures published daily by the Department of Health.

In an earlier analysis, using a different but related approach, statisticians at HIQA also found excess deaths in Ireland due to Covid-19 were lower than the official death toll.

HIQA said, on that occasion, that a substantial part of the explanation was that in some cases Covid-19 had accelerated the timing of death for some elderly and vulnerable people who may have ended up dying "with" Covid-19 rather than dying "from" Covid-19.

John Flanagan, the CSO statistician who painstakingly read through and classified 34,000 death notices on RIP.ie for the new experimental CSO analysis in today's report, also made a similar reference.

However, he was also keen to point out that the explanation could be more complicated than that.

For instance, people's behaviour changed enormously during the Covid-19 lockdown periods which could have affected mortality trends.

There were far fewer people in the workplace while people were working from home. Could that have resulted in fewer workplace accidents?

There was less traffic on the roads. Did that mean fewer road deaths?

No traffic on the streets of Dublin during the Covid-19 restrictions (pic: Rollingnews.ie)

People engaged in social distancing. Did that result in fewer deaths from other infectious diseases including the flu and other illnesses?

Against that, fewer people came forward for treatment and screening for serious diseases such as cancer as many hospital services were suspended. Did that, or will that, result in more non-Covid-19 deaths occurring? 

We don't know the answer to all these questions yet. It is going to take some time to get all the information and data together, especially when up to three months is allowed for a death to be officially registered in Ireland.

Independently of each other, both the Central Statistics Office and HIQA resorted to using death notice entries on the RIP.ie website to get around these problems so that the public and policymakers might have a more timely yet accurate indicator of the toll taken by Covid-19.

The CSO conducted a very detailed study of the accuracy of the RIP.ie death notice entries and found them to be a highly accurate proxy indicator for the official death records.

It found that a death is typically notified on RIP.ie within 1.1 days of it occurring, and that the correlation with the official death statistics published some months later is greater than 95%.

Using the RIP.ie death notices with some degree of confidence, the CSO's latest report into excess deaths noted that 2,547 deaths occurred in Ireland in April last year.

Because of COVID-19 the number of deaths in the month of April this year was much higher at 3,502. That is almost 1,000 additional deaths. 

In the following months - June and July - the opposite occurred, with 164 fewer deaths in June 2020 than 2019, and 155 fewer deaths in July 2020 than the previous year. 

Taking the first seven months of the pandemic together the CSO calculations found that the cumulative number of deaths occurring was 876 more that during the same months of 2019. 

If it was compared to average death toll for the same months over the previous two years the excess deaths amounted to 887. 

When it is compared to the average of the previous three years the excess death total is 1,192.


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The CSO said its new analysis "appears to indicate" that the Department of Health data on coronavirus-related deaths "comprehensively captures" the impact of Covid-19 on mortality in Ireland.  

This is different to the situation in some other countries where Covid-19 deaths are classified differently.

As a result, excess deaths are turning out to be higher than the official Covid-19 death toll in these regions - and not lower.