Sunday, November 22, 2020

Tomas Doherty

Despite fresh hopes of a vaccine in the new year, Ireland remains in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus.

New analysis of Covid-19 data from across the island shows Northern Ireland has much higher rates of infection than the Republic.

Confirmed case numbers from electoral areas in the South and postcode areas in the North give an indication of how the disease is spreading in communities on both sides of the Border.

In Northern Ireland the figures cover the two-week period from November 2nd to November 15th, and in the South from November 3rd to November 16th. Both sets of statistics use the incidence rate of infection per 100,000 of population, giving a better understanding of the spread than straight case numbers.

The BT52 postal district in Co Derry, which covers part of Coleraine and the north coast, had the highest incidence on the island during this time, with 1,020 cases per 100,000.

The BT13 postcode, which includes the Shankill Road area and other parts of north and west Belfast, had the next highest rate, with 864 cases per 100,000.

The areas in the Republic with the highest infection rates were in Co Donegal – Letterkenny and Buncrana had rates of 389 and 385 respectively.

However, these were significantly lower than in the North. In neighbouring Derry city, the incidence rate in the BT48 postcode stood at 501 cases per 100,000.

The areas with the lowest rate of Covid-19 spread include Rosslare, Co Wexford and Corca Dhuibhne, Co Kerry, where less than 5 cases were recorded in the two-week period.

In Northern Ireland, the postcode with the lowest rate was BT18, which covers Holywood, Co Down, with 140 cases per 100,000.

When comparing figures between the North and the Republic it is important to bear in mind that both jurisdictions are recording coronavirus cases and deaths in similar but distinct ways.

The differing healthcare systems and Covid-19 testing regimes make a like-for-like comparison between the two more difficult.

Nonetheless, the management of the pandemic affects citizens on both sides of the Border.

Speculation in recent weeks that Donegal may not move out of Level 5 restrictions as planned, or that Northern Ireland could end up with one of the worst records in the world in tackling coronavirus, underline this.

Northern Ireland reopened some close-contact and retail services again this week but another two-week “circuit-break” lockdown will come into force on Friday.

Meanwhile, it is expected the Government will next week finalise the plan for exiting Level 5 restrictions and managing the pandemic in the State during December.

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