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HIQA publishes descriptive analysis of the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic across European countries

HIQA has published a descriptive analysis of the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is as well as several factors that are likely to have influenced the course of the pandemic in European countries.

The Department of Health requested the analysis. It examined trends in five epidemiological indicators of the burden of COVID-19. This was from 1 January 2020 up to 30 November 2021.

The indicators were:

  • confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • hospitalisations (new admissions and total patients) with COVID-19
  • intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and total patients in ICU with COVID-19
  • reported COVID-19 deaths
  • excess mortality (that is, mortality above what would normally be expected).

We examined factors that may be important in understanding the context for different trajectories of the COVID-19 pandemic. We observed this across countries. These included baseline conditions in place before the pandemic. For example, population demographics. This is as well as factors relating to interventions taken to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. For example, rates of vaccination or testing.

HIQA’s analysis showed that, between March 2020 and November 2021, Ireland experienced five peaks in the incidence of COVID-19. The cumulative case rates for COVID-19 in Ireland were in line with, or below, the average of the 27 EU member states (EU-27), during the period examined.

5,514 COVID-19 deaths were reported in Ireland up to 30 November 2021. The highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths occurred in April 2020 and February 2021. This is with the cumulative death rate in Ireland remaining consistently below the EU-27 average. Excess mortality occurred in Ireland during a seven-week period from late March to mid-May 2020. This is as well as an eight-week period from early January to late February 2021.

Dr Conor Teljeur, HIQA’s Chief Scientist said:

“As part of this analysis, we also reviewed several factors that are likely to have influenced the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Ireland has a relatively young population and a lower population density than most other European countries, but a much higher proportion of people living in households of three or more persons. We also considered how COVID-19 testing approaches and public health restrictions changed over time, and differences in how and when vaccination rollout occurred. These factors, among others, strongly limit the conclusions that can be drawn from comparing the burden of the pandemic across countries.”

You can find the report on our website,

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