Dear Ed,

You will be aware of the recent publicity surrounding deaths due to COVID-19 and whether the published daily figures for the UK, and Northern Ireland, cover just deaths in hospital or also include deaths in care homes. You will also be aware that ONS published deaths split by location for the week ending 3rd April last Tuesday and NISRA plan to publish deaths split by location for the week ending 10th April this morning at 9.30am.

Not only is there high public interest in this information but there is also high potential for misunderstanding (due to the complexity of the definitions for both the weekly deaths published by NISRA and daily figures provided by the PHA). To avoid the risk of misinterpretation, NISRA has taken the decision to brief journalists in advance of the release (via interactive video conferencing) with the data being released to these journalists at 9.20am.

We have applied the public interest test outlined in section (5)(2)(b) of the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order (NI) (the public benefit likely to result from such access (including the timing of such access) significantly outweighs the detriment to public trust in official statistics likely to result from such access) and concluded that in the current circumstances the criterion is met. In particular, we consider that the Value of the statistics will be significantly enhanced at the expense of only a small risk of reduced Trustworthiness.

A list of the organisations represented by the journalists who attended the briefing (see Annex A) has been published as part of the Pre-release Access list, along with the rationale for granting such access.

Yours sincerely,


  • BBC
  • UTV
  • Belfast Telegraph
  • Daily Mirror
  • Irish Times
  • Slugger O’Toole
  • Financial Times
  • Reuters
  • Downtown Cool FM
  • Q Radio
  • JPI media
  • Impartial Reporter
  • Belfast Media Group
  • Derry News
  • Causeway Coast and Glens News