Covid-19 Ireland Revealed: counties with highest coronavirus deaths

Mayo and the border counties of Louth, Cavan and Monaghan have recorded the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 per head of the population.

ata on infection rates shows how communities in these counties have paid a huge price in the battle against coronavirus.

Nursing home outbreaks, the more contagious UK variant, and an explosion of cases at Christmas had a significant impact on the Covid-19 death toll.

As Ireland looks to unlock once again after a turbulent four months, those in some of the country’s worst-hit areas are looking forward to brighter days – but caution remains.

Figures provided to the Irish Independent by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveal that between March 2020 and April 27 this year, Mayo has had 6,398 cases of Covid and lost 180 people to the virus. With 130,507 people living there, according to the 2016 census, it currently has the highest fatality rate with 138.01 per 100,000.


Galway recorded nearly 4,000 more cases (10,314) than its neighbouring county, but fewer deaths (121).

After Christmas, the rural town of Belmullet on the west coast of Mayo was the most-infected area in the country. The 14-day incidence rate for the Belmullet electoral area – which has a population of 12,600 and includes Achill and other rural villages – at one point stood at 5,555.6 per 100,000 in January.

“It exploded practically overnight,” said Maria Ruane, practice manager at the Dr Fergal Ruane surgery clinic.

“There were a few people in their 50s who had a terrible time, people in their 40s hospitalised, and we had many deaths of older people and sadly a nurse who worked with us, who was in her late 50s, passed away. It was really a shocking time over the few weeks.”


Dr Maria Ruane, who works in Belmullet, Co Mayo, said the virus practically exploded after Christmas. Photo: Conor McKeown

Belmullet is 50km from the nearest hospital and has an older population, which is why the town was hit so hard by the surge in cases after people travelled home from England and beyond at Christmas.

In the last month, however, Belmullet has recorded zero cases each week.

Ms Ruane said there was “a lot of positivity” in the town now as the vaccine roll-out is well underway.

“They are delivered on a Tuesday around 8am and we give them out around 9.15am and we can give maybe 300 vaccines a day, it’s a joyful day.”

Hope is now on the horizon since the Christmas period left a heartbreaking mark after at least a dozen people passed away from Covid.

A number of residents at the local nursing home, Tí Aire, also died last year.

“From Beijing to Blacksod, it’s hard to believe that a virus could travel the world and impact so many people,” said Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle.

“We’ve lost a lot of fine people who had a lot of giving to give, I was very close to many of them,” Mr Coyle told the Irish Independent.

“We’ve had a very tough time but the people of Erris are resilient and they have survived a lot of hard times. We’re coming out the other side of it.”

Mayo’s infection rate between April 13 and 27 stood at 69.7. There were two days when zero cases were recorded and fewer than five on three others.

Mayo coroner and solicitor Patrick O’Connor said there was no real distinction between “who died with Covid and who died from Covid”, as no post-mortems are carried out on Covid-positive patients.

“It is a disease that has to be notified to the coroner and as it is considered a natural cause of death, it is not necessary to hold post-mortems,” he said.

“It may be some time before we know the full picture once more analysis is done.”

The counties of Louth, Cavan and Monaghan recorded the next highest death rates per head of population.

By April 27, Louth registered 177 deaths and 9,101 cases, giving it a fatality rate of 137.88.

Cavan recorded 101 deaths, giving it a death rate of 132.73, while Monaghan had a death rate of 124.04 after 76 people lost their lives.

Conflicting restrictions on either side of the Border wreaked havoc throughout the pandemic for these counties.

Dr John McKeown, a GP based in Carlingford, Co Louth, said people were crossing over the Border “very casually” during lockdowns.

“A lot of people did travel to shop and to see family and friends,” he said. “Thankfully from mid-January, the numbers did start going down.

“We have one local nursing home with 40-plus residents, it had no Covid cases until the beginning of January but one or two staff members tested positive and there were six fatalities among the residents. That was very difficult for all of us.”

Dr Mary Flanagan, coroner for Cavan and south Monaghan, said cross-border travel and the UK variant led to a major spike in cases.

“I did see the effects of people travelling across the Border in my practice in Castleblayney.

“Things really took off in the week before Christmas and January was extremely busy in terms of cases in the surgery. There was one weekend when we had 53 cases among patients.

“Thankfully I haven’t had any Covid deaths notified recently. I believe the strict lockdowns in the North and Republic have had an impact.”

Kildare and Dublin also had high death rates of 123.8 and 123.61. The capital recorded 1,663 deaths, while 274 people from Kildare died from the virus according to the CSO.

A report by Kildare county coroner Professor Denis Cusack revealed a 53pc increase in the total notified deaths reported between March 2020 and February 2021.

Mr Cusack said nursing homes bore the brunt of the pandemic as deaths in these settings rose by 54pc.

Of the 230 Covid-related deaths notified in Kildare by February 28, 2021, 163 were people in nursing or residential homes.

Nearly all (99pc) those who died had underlying conditions, with over half (57pc) suffering from cardiovascular issues.

Some coroners had different death totals than the CSO as coroners are required to record any death which occurs in the county, whereas the CSO and public health record deaths based on where the person is from. For example, a person may live in Carlow but could have passed away at a hospital in Dublin and that death would be notified to the Dublin coroner.

Meanwhile, some counties had a very low death rate from Covid-19. Galway (46.8), Leitrim (43.79), Kerry (36.6) and Sligo (35.19) ranked in the bottom four. Leitrim recorded 14 deaths, Kerry, with a population of 147,707, had 54 deaths and Sligo recorded 23 deaths.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

The CSO stated the figures related to the confirmed deaths of 4,614. While there were 4,884 deaths as of April 27, 270 were identified as “probable cases”.


Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

Irish Independent

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