Coronavirus rates in Ireland are highest in the North and Co Donegal with some parts of the northwest seeing a marked increase in infections in the last week, new analysis reveals.
Confirmed Covid-19 case numbers from electoral areas in the South and postcode areas in the North give an indication of how the disease is spreading in different communities.
In Northern Ireland the figures cover the two-week period from November 23rd to December 6th, and in the South from November 24th to December 7th. 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 BT42 postal district in Co Antrim, which covers parts of Ballymena, has the highest incidence on the island, with 638.9 cases per 100,000.
The BT80 postcode in Co Tyrone, which includes the Cookstown area, has the next highest rate, with 591.6 cases per 100,000.
The areas in the Republic with the highest infection rates are in Co Donegal.
Carndonagh has a 14-day incidence of 518.7, which has almost doubled from a rate of 271.2 a week ago. Letterkenny now has an incidence rate at 322.2 cases per 100,000, up from 288.7 last week.
Claremorris in Co Mayo and Callan-Thomastown in Co Kilkenny have the next highest rates in the Republic, at 257.9 and 232.7 respectively.
Twenty-seven local electoral areas recorded less than five confirmed Covid-19 cases in the 14-day period, including: Connemara, Co Galway; Westport, Co Mayo; Bantry West, Co Cork; Ballymahon, Co Longford; Ballinamore, Co Leitrim; Killarney, Co Kerry; and Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
In Northern Ireland, the postcodes with the lowest rates are BT78 in Co Tyrone, which recorded one case over the two-week period, and BT57 in Co Antrim, covering Bushmills on the north coast, which recorded three cases.
When comparing figures between the North and the Republic it is important to bear in mind that both jurisdictions are recording coronavirus cases in similar but distinct ways.
The latest figures come after Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed the easing of coronavirus restrictions in the North will take place as planned on Friday.
She said the Stormont Executive heard an update on the transmission of the virus, and agreed the current R-number (reproductive rate) being around 1 has given the “necessary headroom to move ahead with the planned changes”.
However she cautioned that while shopping, parts of hospitality and close contact services may resume, the public must follow health guidelines.
In the Republic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Government and public health experts remained concerned about the need to “keep our shape and keep our discipline” and limit social interaction over the Christmas holiday period.
Mr Donnelly explained his concerns were based on the daily reports of the 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 infection which had begun to increase five days ago.
The Minister said the National Public Health Emergency Team had advised him there would be “serious exponential growth” in infection rates if the R-number for Covid-19 increased above 1.2.
“It is something that nobody wants because it puts the hospitals at risk. It puts lives at risk, It puts the nursing homes at risk”, he said.