About 70% of all positive tests for Covid-19 in the past week in Northern Ireland were among people younger than 40
The past month has seen a considerable rise in coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland.
Hospitalisations have increased. As have deaths.
But the data also indicates that the vaccine has been doing its job – things are nowhere near as bad as the last surge at the start of the year.
Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate in the UK. And by quite some margin.
Confirmed new daily cases chart
The latest data from the UK government, for the seven days up until 1 August, puts Northern Ireland’s infection rate (per 100,000 population) at more than three times that of Wales and Scotland:
The Republic of Ireland’s government doesn’t publish a seven-day infection rate, but it can be worked out. For the same period, it was 185.2 – much lower than Northern Ireland’s.
There are indications that the Republic’s rate is on the rise. However, it’s worth noting that during the latter half of July, Ireland was seeing similar numbers of daily cases as Northern Ireland – despite having two and half times the population.
There was a slight decrease in Northern Ireland’s case numbers at the beginning of the week and the latest infection rates from the Department of Health (DoH) indicate a fall in comparison to the previous seven days.
But the department’s dashboard also records that case numbers started to rise again at the end of the week.
In any case, the numbers are fairly clear – right now, coronavirus is spreading in Northern Ireland more quickly than in Britain and the Republic.
The big question is, why? That’s difficult to answer by looking at infection rates alone.
So let’s look closer at who is getting infected.
Younger adults seem to be driving the higher rate of infection.
Data from the DoH shows that over the past week, almost 70% (68.7%) of all positive tests for Covid-19 were among people younger than 40.
And this isn’t overly surprising – for a few reasons.
Younger adults will naturally make up a large part of the workforce who are on the move and mixing with other people.
Socialising will also be affecting this increased rate.
And perhaps, the most important factor – a lower rate of vaccination among those aged 18-39.
We’ll look at vaccination rates in more depth below, but – in short – the figures show that young adults in Northern Ireland are less likely to have had a vaccine dose than older people.
Of course, vaccination does not stop transmission of coronavirus, but a number of studies have indicated that it reduces that risk.
Vaccinations opening to 16 and 17 year olds might have an effect – but it’ll take a few weeks before the figures give any hint of this.
For now, Northern Ireland has roughly the same seven-day rolling average for new cases as we saw around seven months ago.
That was around the peak of the winter surge in January, when more than 1,000 hospital inpatients were Covid-positive, and about 20 people with the virus were dying every day.
Things are nowhere near as bad at that now.
That’s looking at our current caseload in a positive light.
Another – equally accurate – way of looking at the data is that we have many more people in hospital than we did just a month ago, and our death rate hasn’t been as high for five months.
The vast majority of adults in Northern Ireland have had at least one dose of vaccine.