Covid-19 for Dummies

Citizens! We are currently subject to the greatest restriction to  our human rights since perhaps the Middle Ages.

The law states: “No person may leave the place where they are living.” Subject to certain exceptions.

Freedom of assembly, of movement and of religious assembly have been curtailed almost to the point of non-existence. We are under virtual house arrest. The police are, in many instances, interpreting the law in a way which flouts the words of the statute. The State is threatening to clamp down further if people continue to sunbathe. Minister Swann has weighed in to repeat the threat.

Not a peep has been  heard from our Human Rights Industry. No judicial reviews are in train.

The State narrative, picked up by most of the compliant and doltish media , is that there is a pandemic sweeping Northern Ireland. Thousands may die if we are not kept at home.

It seems likely that commerce and industry will be decimated , if restrictions are kept in place much longer.

The mental  health of our countrymen and women, fragile to begin with, is in real danger as a result of these restrictions.

The media gives us a daily score on Coronavirus deaths. At  the time of writing, Sunday 5th April at 18.00 BST the BBC tells us that “seven more people who had tested positive …have died in NI , bringing the total to 63”.

So, what are the facts?

No better starting point than the Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency. [“NISRA”]

Their data is based on death registration, not the date the death occurred. Here is their summary.

“Overall, there were fewer deaths registered in Northern Ireland in the week ending 27th March than there have typically been in the same week in recent years. Nine COVID-19 related deaths were registered by the General Register Office (GRO) in that week”.

The number of deaths registered in the week ending 27th March was 287, compared to the average number 2015-19, of 320. The graph shows that , on average , fewer deaths are occurring in NI since January than in an average year.

Helpfully the NISRA has explained how it collects data and compares that to other information.

“ The data in this bulletin are based on the date of the death registration, not on the date the death occurred. It can take up to five days for a death to be registered in Northern Ireland.

  1. Based on the latest data, 19 deaths occurred in NI between 18th March and 27th March which mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate (see below for definitional explanations).
  2. All COVID-19 deaths registered to date were of persons aged 45+.”


So the first bit of good news is that nobody under 45 years of age has died from the virus in NI.

Where do these other figures come from? The BBC figure of 63?

NISRA explains that, to some extent.

Differences between NISRA’s death registration statistics and the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Daily Surveillance bulletins

PHA COVID-19 Daily Surveillance Bulletin

The PHA’s COVID-19 Surveillance Bulletin describes COVID-19 activity in Northern Ireland and is produced daily. Alongside information on confirmed cases and numbers of individuals tested, this includes deaths reported on the following basis:

  • Case definition: Patients who have died within 28 days of first positive COVID-19 test result, whether or not COVID-19 was the cause of death
  • Datasource: Clinicianreports(e.g.HSCTrusts),RegionalVirusLaboratoryandlocallaboratory reports.
  • Reporting period: 09.30 am (individuals who have been reported in the previous 24 hours)

PHA figures therefore include the number of deaths reported who have tested positive for coronavirus. These are valuable because they are available very quickly, and give a good indication of what is happening day by day. Their definition is also clear, so the limitations of the data can be understood. But they won’t necessarily include all deaths involving COVID-19. PHA figures report 16 deaths associated with COVID-19 by 27th March 2020.

NISRA weekly death registration statistics
NISRA figures (which show 19 deaths associated with COVID-19 occurring by 27th March) are different from the PHA’s daily surveillance figures on COVID-19 deaths described above. The NISRA figures are derived from the formal process of death registration and may include cases where the doctor completing the death certificate diagnosed suspected cases of COVID-19, for example, where this was based on relevant symptoms but no test for the virus was conducted. The NISRA figures also include all deaths that occur outside hospital.

Figures produced by NISRA are slower to prepare, because they have to be certified by a doctor, registered and processed. But once ready, they are the most complete statistical information.

So it appears then that the Public Health Agency’s figures are not to be relied on?

They are different….

What is the real number and rate of deaths caused by Covid-19?

The NISRA says that nineteen deaths in the relevant week mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate. It is not clear whether any of these deaths were actually caused by Covid-19. They were “associated” with Covid-19. It is not stated anywhere that any death was caused by Covid-19.

If a doctor mentions Covid-19, even if there has been no test, does that get into the statistics?

Apparently. We don’t have any outcomes from Post Mortems.

But the State says it’s a pandemic?

Yes, so  it does and it legislated about it.

OK , if we can’t be sure of the exact number of dead, it’s a pandemic , so many more people are dying in NI , aren’t they?

No , actually.  Here’s what NISRA says about that:

The number of death registrations mentioning COVID-19 increased from 1 in week 11 to 9 in week 12.
In week 12, 27% of all deaths registered mentioned terms relating directly to respiratory causes on the death certificate. These are counted as ‘respiratory’ deaths in the table below and are provided to aid comparison with the COVID-19 statistics (COVID-19 deaths are also included in the respiratory category).

There have been 1,119 respiratory deaths registered in the year-to-date; this equates to 28% of all deaths so far in 2020. The number and proportion of respiratory deaths is lower in the year-to-date than the5-year average (1,354, 32%).

So, even if Covid-19 caused some deaths in the last week, the overall result was fewer deaths than the five year average.

But the Assembly had good reason to pass very restrictive measures did it not?

Here is the response. When this legislation was placed before the assembly, [not passed] one Covid-19 related death had taken place in NI. Notice how they mention “incidence and spread”.


The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations

(Northern Ireland) 2020

Made – – – – Laid before the Assembly Coming into operation –

at 9.15 p.m. on 28th March 2020 at 10.00 p.m. on 28th March 2020 at 11.00 p.m. on 28th March 2020

The Department of Health(a), makes the following Regulations in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 25C(1), (3)(c), (4)(d) and 25F(2) of the Public Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1967(b).

These Regulations are made in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS- CoV-2) in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health considers that the restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to that threat.

In accordance with section 25Q of that Act the Department of Health is of the opinion that, by reason of urgency, it is necessary to make these Regulations without a draft having been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.

Here’s a reminder of the actual restrictions. No mention of how often you can go out or for how long or what “exercise” means. Sunbathing, barbeques or swimming are not prohibited.

Restrictions on movement
—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living

without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—

  1. (a)  to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) or for vulnerable persons and supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household, or the household of a vulnerable person, or to obtain money, including from any business listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2;
  2. (b)  to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household;
  3. (c)  to seek medical assistance, including to access any of the services referred to in paragraph 37 or 38 of Schedule 2;
  4. (d)  to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 2 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007(a), to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance;
  5. (e)  to donate blood
  6. (f)  to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;
  7. (g)  to attend a funeral of—
    (i) a member of the person’s household,

(ii) a close family member, or
(iii) if no-one within sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii) is attending, a friend;

  1. (h)  to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings;
  2. (i)  to access critical public services, including—
    1. (i)  childcare or educational facilities (where these are still available to a child in relation to whom that person is the parent, or has parental responsibility for, or care of the child);
    2. (ii)  social care services;
    3. (iii)  servicesprovidedbytheDepartmentforCommunities;
    4. (iv)  services provided to victims (such as victims of crime);
  3. (j)  in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of the child;
  4. (k)  in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;
  5. (l)  to move house where reasonably necessary;

(a) S.I. 2007/1351 (N.I. 11). Sub-paragraph (3B) was substituted, with sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) and (3A) to (3E) for sub- paragraphs (1) to (3) by s. 78 of and paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 7 to, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (c. 9)

(m) to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm.

(3) For the purposes of paragraph (1), the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or other appurtenance of such premises.

(4) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who is homeless.

Restrictions on gatherings
During the emergency period, no person may participate in a gathering in a public place of

more than two people except—

  1. (a)  where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household,
  2. (b)  where the gathering is essential for work purposes,
  3. (c)  to attend a funeral,
  4. (d)  where reasonably necessary—
    1. (i)  to facilitate a house move,
    2. (ii)  to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 2 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007,
    3. (iii)  to provide emergency assistance ,or
    4. (iv)  to participate in legal proceedings, or fulfil a legal obligation.



Why have I spent all weekend in the house?

I don’t know- but the State knows what’s best for you, Dummy.