Ireland is in the grip of a third wave of coronavirus with cases rising sharply in some counties and local areas, new analysis shows.
The country now has “the fastest growing incidence rate in the European Union,” the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said on Thursday, with further restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the disease to come into effect on St Stephen’s Day.
The latest figures reveal an increase in Covid cases across most counties. Weekly statistics on infection rates in local electoral areas dating from August onwards show the latest wave is following a similar pattern to previous surges.
When these case numbers are compared with similar data from postcode areas in the North they offer an indication of how the disease is spreading in different communities. 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.
Currently, the BT42 postal district in Co Antrim, which covers parts of Ballymena, has the highest incidence on the island. The area saw 922.6 cases per 100,000 over the two-week period from December 6th to 20th, an increase from last week when it had a rate of 900.6.
The BT80 postcode in Co Down, which includes Newry, follows with 832.5, increasing from 648.9 last week.
The area in the Republic with the highest infection rate is in Co Wexford.
New Ross has a 14-day incidence of 659.7, an increase of more than 1,000 per cent since last week when the area had a rate of 57.7 cases per 100,000. The area added 183 Covid-19 cases in the fortnight up to December 21st, more than any other part of the Republic.
Carndonagh in Co Donegal, which previously had the highest infection rate in the State, has seen its incidence rate drop from 795.8 to 619.
Claremorris in Co Mayo and Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny have the next highest rates in the Republic, at 523.1 and 462.2 respectively.
Nine local electoral areas recorded fewer than five confirmed Covid-19 cases in the 14-day period, including: Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim; Belmullet, Co Mayo; Cahir, Co Tipperary; and Kilrush, Co Clare.
In Northern Ireland, the postcodes with the lowest rates are BT3 in Belfast, which recorded no cases over the two-week period, and BT19 in Co Down, which recorded a rate of 123 cases per 100,000.
Dr Holohan urged the public to limit their contacts over the coming days. “Unfortunately, none of the indicators of this disease are showing encouraging signs,” he said.
Restrictions will be phased in over the Christmas period, coming into full effect on January 1st. The Government has warned the measure could be in place for months.
Inter-county travel will be prohibited after December 26th.From January 1st, no gatherings among households in private homes and gardens will be permitted.
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The current measures that allow visits from two other households to a private dwelling or garden will end on December 27th. One other household will be allowed to visit up to December 31st before a ban on visitors, apart for essential purposes, comes into effect.
Non-essential retail can remain open, with guidance that shops do not run January sales.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is set to enter a new lockdown on St Stephen’s Day, of which the first week will be the toughest so far imposed in the region.
A stay-at-home curfew will be in place from 8pm to 6am for that week.