Figures released this morning show that fully one third of deaths from the coronavirus had gone unreported to the public by the authorities. 

The new statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), following an outcry from the public over the official policy to exclude care home fatalities from daily death updates, show that 157 people had died from Covid-19 in the North up to 10 April.

Previously, the Public Health Agency had put the total figure of deaths at 118 by 10 April.

A surge in deaths in care homes has taken place since 10 April and it is expected the next set of figures will reflect a worsening situation across the sector.

However, there are still no plans in place by the Health Department to isolate care home residents with Covid-19 in a separate facility. In fact, in some cases hospitals are trying to return patients who were care home residents to the same setting.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said that her mother was a resident of a care home which was now virus-free. However, a hospital which had successfully treated a resident from the home was now pressing for that person to be discharged back to the facility. "This patient is out of immediate danger but is still positive," said the woman. "The care home is now free of the virus and absolutely refusing to take this person back as it would effectively be to sentence other elderly and vulnerable residents to death - and increase the risk to staff who are already putting themselves in harm's way."

A health sector executive who spoke with said there were no contingency plans in place to deal with a situation where care homes were unable to cope with the level of Covid cases in a home. 

"It is unclear how care will be provided should staff numbers drop below the staff-resident ratio as outlined by RQIA. Particularly where there is a substantial dependency level in a care home.   There needs to be reassurance for care home residents and their families that this is being addressed and care needs will be met."