Deaths divided into ‘Covid deaths’ and ‘deaths with Covid’

  • Health Ministry explains different classifications

  • Says reporting deaths takes time due to review

By Pamodi Waravita


The Ministry of Health classifies deaths of people with COVID-19 in two ways, namely “Covid-19 deaths” and “deaths with Covid-19”, and it is this differentiation that leads to delays in releasing statistics, the Ministry told The Morning yesterday (10).

“In simple terms, what we consider a ‘Covid-19 death’ is any death that would not have happened if that person had not contracted the infection. The official numbers record this category of deaths as ‘Covid-19 deaths’ or a ‘Covid-19 death’. In other cases, if a post-mortem polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result comes back positive, it is regarded as a ‘death with Covid-19’,” explained Health Ministry Communications Director and Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath.

Dr. Herath was responding to our inquiries regarding concerns about the manner in which Covid-19 deaths are officially reported.

According to Dr. Herath, a thorough review is required to determine whether a death is a ‘Covid-19 death’ or a ‘death with Covid-19’, and it is this review that has resulted in some Covid-19 deaths being officially reported a few days after the deaths actually occurred.

“This review takes some time, which is why the date of death is reported as being a few days prior to the time of reporting,” explained Dr. Herath. 

When questioned as to whether PCR tests are conducted on all deaths that occur in the country, Dr. Herath said that if the relevant area Public Health Inspector (PHI) and the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) – who are the field health workers – are confident that it is very unlikely that the person was infected with Covid-19, or if the inquiry into the death determines that it was a sudden death, then it is not compulsory to perform a PCR test.

“However, most often than not, field health workers would not take the risk to clear it without doing a PCR test,” noted Dr. Herath.

A media release by the Department of Government Information on 9 June noted that 48 Covid-19 deaths were reported from 1 June to 8 June. The Health Promotion Bureau stated that a total of 1,910 Covid-19 deaths have occurred in the country as of yesterday (10) evening.

Deaths divided into ‘Covid deaths’ and ‘deaths with Covid’