Ireland has seen a surge in excess mortality that rivals the peak of the pandemic, according to an analysis of death notices posted on RIP.ie by University College Cork lecturer Seamus Coffey. The seven-day rolling average recorded on January 9 was 152 – nearly as high as the weekly average reported at the peak of 2021's third wave. This new wave appears not yet peaked, with 191 Covid 19 related deaths since December 1 accounting for less than 20% of total excess death figures during this period - suggesting Covid is the no longer primary cause of death in Ireland currently.
These excess deaths are 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels between 2016 and 2019, although this figure could be up to 5% inaccurate due to the margin for error with RIP data collection methods. Christmas 2022 saw more deaths than any other Christmas in five years, indicating a sharp increase in mortality across the country compared to previous years.
This uptick is particularly concerning as it comes after Ireland was praised for its successful handling of the virus throughout 2020 and early 2021 when public health restrictions were implemented efficiently and successfully curbed both the spread of infection and excess mortality.
Experts have suggested that while Covid remains a contributory factor in many cases, underlying causes such as delays in accessing medical services and associated stress are also likely to be responsible for some of these additional deaths. Aging population demographics also appear to play a role, with those aged over 65 particularly vulnerable during this new wave.
The government is working hard to tackle these issues, but it seems clear from this latest surge that there is still much work to be done. To reduce further increases in mortality rates, it will be necessary for them to focus not only on Covid-19 but also on tackling the deeper issues that lie behind them – social isolation and lack of access to healthcare services among others.