COVID-19 Epidemiological Bulletin

This weekly report outlines the recent epidemiology of COVID-19 disease in Northern Ireland (NI), along with information about the genomic lineages (variants) of cases, detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater, the number of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes and excess deaths. It links to other sources of information about hospital admissions and COVID-19-related deaths.

1 Summary

  • In the week ending January 29 2023 (Week 04), the number of new infection episodes detected through clinical and routine testing was 393, a decrease from 478 the previous week.

  • In the study week ending 24 January 2023, the Office for National Statistics estimated the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 was 27900 (95% credible interval: 20600 to 36600), equating to 1.52% of the population or around 1 in 65 people (compared to 1 in 30 and 3.08% of people in the previous study report).

  • There has been a general decreasing trend in the amount of SARS-CoV-2 detected in wastewater in recent weeks from week 51 in 2022.

2 Incidence and prevalence of COVID-19

2.1 Episodes of COVID-19

Infection episodes detected through clinical testing reveal only a small fraction of the true number of cases, because only a minority of people who have COVID-19 disease are tested. We continue to monitor these because an increase may indicate increasing incidence or severity. The number of new episodes is shown by week overall (Figure 2.1), as a rate per 100,000 population by age band over time (Figure 2.2), as a rate per 100,000 population by local government district for the most recent week in a bar plot (Figure 2.3) and over time in a heat map (Figure 2.4). Supplementary tables of key figures are shown at the end of this document. The number of new episodes decreased in week 04, at 393 from 478 in the previous week. The 10-19 year-old age group saw an increase in episode rates when compared to the previous week, the 50-59 year-old age group saw no change and the remaining age groups saw a decrease. The highest episode rates per 100,000 population were seen in 80+ year-olds (75 per 100,000 population). Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Mid Ulster and Newry, Mourne and Down saw an increase in episode rates when compared to the previous week, whilst the remaining local government districts saw a decrease.

There have been changes in lateral flow test (LFT) testing policies (including the general population with COVID-19 symptoms no longer being advised to take LFTs, and the pausing of routine asymptomatic testing for health and social care workers including care home staff), which may have an impact on the proportion of COVID-19 cases detected. Further detail can be found online here.

Weekly number of unique episodes of COVID-19, 2022-23

Figure 2.1: Weekly number of unique episodes of COVID-19, 2022-23